Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ranks his three 32-point performances
TORONTO — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander exhaled for dramatic effect before ranking his three 32-point performances.
“This one might be the best one,” he said after the Thunder’s 98-97 win against the Raptors on Sunday. “For sure.”
A week and a half ago, Gilgeous-Alexander set a career high against the Suns, and he’s tied it twice since. First against the Clippers two days later, and then again on Sunday.
There are plenty of circumstantial reasons for Sunday’s performance to be Gilgeous-Alexander’s favorite. He played one of the best games of his career in his hometown and in front of friends and family. He helped make up for the absence of Dennis Schroder (right ankle soreness), the Thunder’s second-leading scorer.
“That’s a really good team over there,” Thunder guard Chris Paul said of Toronto, “even with all the injuries they’ve got. They’re well coached. They play hard. That’s a big win for us.”
But even without those factors, Gilgeous-Alexander’s third time scoring 32 points makes a strong case for No. 1.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s second 32-point game came against his former team, but the Thunder guard liked his performance against the Suns better.
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“I think I shot a worse percentage tonight,” Gilgeous-Alexander said after the Clippers game, “so it doesn’t feel as good.”
Gilgeous-Alexander shot 13-of-18 (72.2%) from the field against Phoenix, and 12-of-25 (48%) against the Clippers.
His 12-of-21 (57.1%) shooting night at Toronto fell in the middle, against one of the best defenses in the league. The Raptors rank No. 2 in defensive rating (104 points allowed per 100 possessions), behind only the Bucks (101.3).
The other stuff
Thunder coach Billy Donovan has been harping on Gilgeous-Alexander’s versatility all season, saying he has too much potential to be just a scorer. In all three career-high scoring nights, Gilgeous-Alexander recorded multiple rebounds, assists and steals.
He logged the most rebounds (7) and steals (3) at Toronto. He tallied the most assists (5) against the Clippers.
The Thunder beat the Suns 126-108, so comfortable of a margin that Gilgeous-Alexander rested for the final minute of the game.
In a 118-112 win over the Clippers, Gilgeous-Alexander had the go-ahead assist. But Schroder, who scored 16 points in the final period, was the real fourth-quarter hero.
When it came to clutch moments, Gilgeous Alexander's poise at Toronto stood out. He made the last three plays that sent OKC to victory. First, the 21-year-old scored the go-ahead bank shot with 36 seconds on the clock.
Then, he grabbed the rebound on the other end. He took off running, and the Raptors mysteriously didn’t foul until the clock wound all the way down to three seconds.
Gilgeous-Alexander caught the resulting inbound pass, and Thunder rookie Darius Bazley was sure the Raptors would foul again, to give themselves one last chance to score.
“I had confidence that he was going to knock down the free throws,” Bazley said. “… But when he shook them off of him and just kept going, I was like, ‘That works, too.’”
To top off a career night, Gilgeous-Alexander dribbled out the rest of the clock.