The Oklahoma City Thunder got their first in on the Chesapeake Energy Arena hardwood against the Chicago Bulls on Friday. This game did not lack entertainment and adversity. The Thunder got down by 22 points in this contest, but this young, scrappy, and hungry squad never went away.
OKC was led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, their 22-year-old cornerstone who had a career-high 33-points including the game-tying bucket to send this game to overtime. There was a ton of talk about SGA entering this game. Not only is he the most important piece of the Thunder’s rebuild, but there were concerns over how unselfish the Kentucky product was being. The lack of insane shot attempts was almost driving Thunder fans crazy.
However, I for one would much rather have a selfless superstar than one that puts up empty stats. In this contest, with the team having their backs against the wall, SGA showed that aggressiveness OKC fans have longed for. He took 19 shots, including 5 triples to help ignite the offense. Shai also dished out ten assists, had an active five rebounds, and even came away with a steal defensively. From his animated expressions, it certainly seemed as though this was the game SGA realized this Thunder franchise belongs to him.
Lu Dort could not be overshadowed in this game, without his massive third frame Oklahoma City could not have even attempted a 22-point comeback. The undrafted second-year player poured in 21 points, including his four (4) made 3’s, Dort also had eight rebounds, a block…And oh yeah, six (6!) steals. Sweet Lu once again showed off his improved shooting stroke and thus far has sustained that all season long.
The third building block, Darius Bazley, did not have the same night as Dort and SGA. In fact, Mark Daigneault went away from Bazley late in this game in favor of Kenrich Williams who was without question a hotter hand tonight. Kenny Hustle producing in the fourth quarter was the backbone of this comeback. Mark Daigneault was forced to leave his starters in the game longer than their normal third quarter rotation patterns to allow the team to chip away at the Bulls lead, and that prompt some unexpected fourth-quarter minutest from Williams, who stood up to the challenge.
Isaiah Roby also performed extremely well in a spot start due to Al Horford being out due to personal reasons. In each start Roby has made this season, he has poured in double-digit points. Against the Bulls, it was no different as he went for 14-points, four rebounds, and three assists. Is Isaiah Roby part of the core?
For an even longer deep dive on each player’s performance against the Bulls check out the postgame podcast on the Locked on Thunder podcast anywhere you get your podcasts.