OKC Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander focused on being more assertive in Game 2
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tried to blow past Rockets center P.J. Tucker, but Tucker shuffled with the young Thunder star step for step. Once Gilgeous-Alexander got to the rim, Rockets guard Danuel House Jr. was there to help Tucker.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s left-handed layup missed badly on what was the Thunder’s first possession Tuesday night in a 123-108 loss to the Rockets.
Gilgeous-Alexander attempted just seven more shots the rest of the game — half his season average in attempts. The Thunder’s leading scorer in the regular season, averaging 19 points per game, was limited to nine points in Game 1 of the playoffs.
“Personally, I wasn’t ready for how they loaded up and protected the paint,” Gilgeous-Alexander said Wednesday after watching film.
The crafty 6-foot-6 guard does his damage in the paint, but Houston’s switch-happy, small-ball defense threw him off. Gilgeous-Alexander shot 1-of-5 near the rim, where 49% of his points came this season.
“They’re committed to protecting the paint,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s first and foremost. They’ll help off of whoever it may be to not allow layups and not allow penetration. But I think if we get them in the open court more, and spread their defense out, it’ll be good for us.”
Gilgeous-Alexander said he needs to be more assertive at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Game 2. He was fifth on the team Tuesday night in field-goal attempts (8), and the Thunder will need more production from its leading scorer to avoid an 0-2 hole.
“He had some drives early he didn’t finish, but actually I thought he made some good decisions,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “When he got into the paint, there was a lot of help there, and he had to make decisions to get the ball out.
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“I certainly don’t want him getting in there and forcing or taking really, really difficult and challenged shots. Because once he starts to create penetration and get down hill, if they’re bringing someone to meet him outside the lane, that means someone else is open, and that’s gonna be his job to find the open man.”
Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring has dipped in the bubble to 15.5 points per game.
Tuesday night was the first time since Dec. 16 that he didn’t score at least 10 points.
“The volume of shots for him isn’t necessarily a goal,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “It’s more like the quality of shots. He’ll figure it out, too. He’s a bloody talented dude.”