OKC Thunder: Hamidou Diallo's homecoming game in New York shows progress of third-year guard
Hamidou Diallo had already put on a show at Madison Square Garden, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander called for an encore.
Instead of dribbling the clock down with 55 seconds left, Gilgeous-Alexander pushed the pace. The Thunder point guard floated an alley-oop pass to Diallo, who timed his jump for a two-handed slam.
“Just tried to throw it as high as I could with it still being in his reach,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
Diallo elevated with ease.
“I see a lot of people joke around like I don’t get above the rim anymore and stuff like that,” the former dunk champion said. “It’s great to just end it like that and just show that I’m still capable.”
Playing in the Big Apple seems to bring out the best in Diallo. The Queens, New York, native scored a season high 23 points with 11 rebounds Friday night in the Thunder’s 101-89 win at the Knicks.
It was the fourth double-double of Diallo’s career.
“Hami loves the Garden,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
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Diallo scored 12 points with four rebounds last March at the famed arena. At the time that tied his season high in points. It was the second-to-last game the Thunder played in front of a packed crowd before the pandemic hit in full force.
The Thunder is staying in New York for the weekend as it plays the Nets at 5 p.m. Sunday, but it’s far from a normal homecoming for Diallo.
“Now we’re quarantined,” he said, “and we just pretty much stay in the hotel and stay out the way.”
Diallo’s 23-point performance Friday night was four shy of his career high. He also secured his 300th career rebound, becoming just the third Thunder reserve to record at least 300 rebounds and 50 steals in their first three seasons. James Harden and Reggie Jackson were the others.
“He’s had a lot of ups and downs, he’s had injuries, he’s had a lot of nights where he’s probably staring at the ceiling, and it’s just a reminder that development’s not linear,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “He’s somebody that’s weathered storms. To his credit he’s been professional and he’s just stayed consistent.
“He has a night like tonight because of the cumulative effect of all those experiences and the way that he’s handled them.”
The former second-round pick out of Kentucky is playing the best offense of his career through eight games.
Diallo leads all Thunder reserves in scoring at 10.5 points per game. Diallo and the Thunder bench outscored the Knicks bench 48-24 Friday night.
Diallo is averaging career highs in points (10.5), rebounds (5.5) and assists (1.5) in his third season. A career 45.8% shooter, Diallo is shooting 52.4% this season.
His true shooting percentage, which accounts for 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws, has jumped to 56% from 49% last season.
“He hasn’t always been this consistent of a player,” Daigneault said. “That’s taken time.”
Which made a night like Friday more gratifying for the Thunder, with a Diallo dunk as the finishing touch.
As for who’s doubting Diallo’s hops?
“That’ll never be me,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I threw it high on purpose because I knew he could go get it.”