The Oklahoma City Thunder may be the second-youngest team in the NBA, but they have proven to be battled tested and are quickly becoming one of the most entertaining to watch.
Led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, and Josh Giddey, the Thunder are on the verge of securing a spot in the 2023 NBA Playoffs with just one win away.
In preparation for their NBA play-in tournament game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Thunder demonstrated their attention to detail by practising playing 4-on-5. This was in anticipation of the Pelicans’ strategy to take the ball out of the hands of their superstar guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Thanks to the extra practice reps, the Thunder were able to maintain their composure and secure a hard-fought 123-118 road victory over the Pelicans.
The Canadian duo of Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort showed why they are two of the most exciting young players in the league.
Gilgeous-Alexander put up an impressive 32 points, along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. Although he was limited to just 7 points in the first half, he came alive in the third quarter, scoring 17 points and helping the Thunder take a double-digit lead.
“They were sending a lot of bodies at me, and I was just trying to make the right play all night, and I started a little bit passive finding my teammates and once that opened-up a little bit I was able to get my offensive game into the ball game, and it turned out to be a pretty good night.”
“We have been battled tested, we have good habits and know what gets it done down the stretch.” continued the first-time NBA all star.
Dort was just as impressive, scoring 27 points, along with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. He got the Thunder off to a hot start, scoring 14 points in the first quarter and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
In the final moments of the game, it was Dort who came up with a clutch defensive play, forcing the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram to battle hard just to get possession of the ball in his hands and forced him to take a contested shot with the game on the line.
Giddey had a career-high 31 points and was just one rebound away from earning a triple-double. His performance was a testament to the young talent that the Thunder have at their disposal.
Speaking about the Pelicans’ strategy, Giddey said, “We obviously went over that prior to the game, we knew that New Orleans does it more than probably any other team in the league. They were trying to take the ball out of his (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) hands, they did a good job of that in the first-half.”
“But credit to Shai, he stuck with it, didn’t have a good first-half by his high expectations. But the way he came out of that second-half and led us to a big win, that is why he is one of the best players in the league.”
The Thunder will now face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves for a spot in the 2023 NBA playoffs. Gilgeous-Alexander, is looking forward to facing his cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker, “absolutely, it’s always fun to playing that guy.”