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- American basketball player
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s buzzer-beating dance was three seasons in the making.
Back in 2019, Gilgeous-Alexander’s first year with the Thunder, he and then-rookie Darius Bazley both liked an old clip of Lamar Odom doing a celebratory strut in an early 2000s New York streetball game.
“I told (Bazley) the first time that I hit my real game winner, buzzer going out, I was going to do the dance,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
Sure enough, Saturday night SGA did just that.
Gilgeous-Alexander collected a pass with three seconds left and the Thunder trailing the Clippers by two points.
Gilgeous-Alexander took a hard dribble right, stepped back and drained a high-arcing 3-pointer just as the buzzer sounded.
Gilgeous-Alexander freed himself from a mob of teammates, and then he did his best Lamar Odom impression.
“I forgot to do it,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, “and then as soon as I seen Baze run on the court, it came back to my head and I just did it.”
Gilgeous-Alexander danced down the court.
“That was a moment for me and Baze,” he said.
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— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2021
It wasn’t Gilgeous-Alexander’s first game winner, he had one of those at Charlotte last season, but it was his first game-winner at the buzzer. And it came against the Clippers — the team that traded him to Oklahoma City as part of a package for Paul George.
It was Gilgeous-Alexander’s second magical shot in a three-night span. On Wednesday, he hit an off-balance, game-tying 3-pointer against the Pelicans with 1.4 seconds left.
Pelicans guard Devonte’ Graham spoiled that moment with a 61-foot miracle.
Gilgeous-Alexander left no time for such a shot on Saturday.
“It feels good,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s almost like this one felt a little bit better after the last one.”
Gilgeous-Alexander’s clutch shot was made possible thanks to Justise Winslow’s shaky free throw shooting.
The Thunder, as planned, sent the right man to the line with eight seconds left. Winslow is a career 64% free throw shooter, and he had only attempted six free throws on the season.
Winslow missed both chances, giving the Thunder exactly that. A chance.
It was the Thunder’s first home win in a month.
The Lamar Odom dance pic.twitter.com/RdEbJKc3GR
— The Daniel Bell© (@BasketballGuruD) December 19, 2021
Here are four more takeaways from the game:
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Luguentz Dort is learning how to put his strength to use on offense.
The Clippers struggled to keep Dort out of the paint. Even when they did, Dort stung them from beyond the arc.
Dort scored a game-high 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting. He shot 4-of-8 from 3-point range.
Dort shot 43% from 2-point range last season. He’s up to 53% this season. That reflects his improved efficiency at the rim.
“He was one of the poorest finishers at his position in the league,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “And to his credit, he got to work and really has improved. He had a helluva left-hand finish tonight.”
Josh Giddey needed one bucket to make history.
He had double-digit rebounds and double-digit assists by the end of the third quarter, but he was stuck on eight points.
And he stayed stuck on eight points. Giddey shot 0-of-5 in the fourth quarter.
The 19-year-old Australian would have become the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double.
Still, his final line wasn’t all bad: 10 assists and a career-high 18 rebounds to go with his eight points.
Giddey said he was aware of the triple-double possibility in the third quarter.
“But I couldn’t make a shot in that last (quarter),” he said. “We got a win, and that’s what I’m happy about.”
Daigneault said he didn’t know how close Giddey was to history until after the game.
“I didn’t sense him pressing,” Daigneault said, “and if he was he needs to not be pressing over a triple-double.”
Daigneault didn’t seem to like the triple-double talk.
“That’s Skittles,” he said.
Daigneault began his pregame press conference Saturday night by rattling off his starting lineup: Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey, Dort, Aaron Wiggins and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
Bazley’s name was notably left out, and it wasn’t because of injury or illness. Daigneault clarified that Bazley was available, and would be coming off the bench.
Before Saturday, Bazley had started the last 82 regular-season games he appeared in — 27 this season, and 55 last season.
Bazley came off the bench for the first time since his rookie season in the Orlando bubble. The Thunder’s starters on that August 2020 day? Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder, Terrance Ferguson, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams.
It’s been that long.
“We never wanna be hasty in those decisions,” Daigneault said of the lineup change. “But we also don’t want to be risk averse or change averse.”
Bazley, while improving defensively, has hit a wall on offense in his third NBA season.
He came into Saturday shooting 37% overall, including 28% from 3-point range. Bazley has two more turnovers (37) than assists (35), and he’s looked out of sync in the Thunder’s offense.
Daigneault said the change isn’t permanent, though.
“It fits under the umbrella of exploring the team, which we’ve talked about many times as we’ve changed lineups over the last two years,” Daigneault said. “But the core of the decision, it’s not disciplinary at all.
“The core of the decision is just we know what he’s capable of, and we want to get him playing to that as consistently as possible, and we’re willing to try a couple different things to do that because we think if we can, it’s gonna impact him and impact our team.”
To Bazley’s credit, he did some good things off the bench Saturday.
Wiggins, a second-round rookie out of Maryland, started in place of Bazley, but Daigneault said this isn’t a Wiggins vs. Bazley debate.
If it is, Wiggins appears to have taken the lead.
The Thunder has seen Bazley for parts of three seasons. Wiggins has played 11 NBA games. It was time to give someone else a shot.
Wiggins is less experienced than Bazley, but he’s actually a year older than Bazley.
The intangibles the Thunder likes about Wiggins are sometimes the things missing from Bazley’s game.
Daigneault said Wiggins’ professionalism has been “loud.”
“Even with rough waters he’s been as steady as they come,” Daigneault said. “He’s one of those guys that is forcing us to take a look at him in that way.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Thunder vs. Clippers: Five takeaways from OKC's win over Los Angeles