TORONTO — The Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t an excellent workforce.
Coming into Wednesday ranked dead-last in offensive score and third-last web score with a 7-16 document, it could even be secure to say that the Thunder are, in reality, a really poor NBA workforce.
Not that you simply’d understand it based mostly on how they carried out Wednesday night time.
And, particularly talking, the efficiency of their two star guards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort, who additionally simply so occur to be Canadian.
Of their homecoming, Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort mixed for 48 factors on 14-of-35 capturing because the Thunder managed to carry onto a 110-109 victory over the Raptors on Wednesday.
And although it got here all the way down to a remaining tip-in from Raptors ahead Justin Champagnie that was inevitably dominated to not rely for the Thunder to seal their victory, the poise that the 2 Canucks confirmed a glimpse of what could possibly be a brighter future for a Thunder workforce that not solely is dangerous statistically, however is designed to be dangerous. Oklahoma Metropolis is seeking to proceed constructing via the draft and, maybe, make a deal centred round an abundance of draft capital (18 future first-round picks and 16 second-round picks).
However possibly that future the Thunder are constructing in direction of is a little bit nearer than they, maybe initially thought.
After getting embarrassed by the Memphis Grizzlies in record-setting style final Thursday, the Thunder have responded with two consecutive wins and have Gilgeous-Alexander, largely, to thank for that.
Gilgeous-Alexander went off for 30 factors and 13 assists on Monday in a victory towards the Detroit Pistons, after which adopted that up with the 26-point, nine-dime efficiency Wednesday towards the Raptors — exploding within the second half with 18 factors and 10 free throws made in as many makes an attempt.
It was Gilgeous-Alexander who helped gas a 25-3 Thunder run to shut the third quarter that proved to be the key deciding issue within the sport. He additionally made the play that gave the Thunder the win by driving into the center of the Raptors’ defence, drawing 4 defenders and kicking out to a wide-open Mike Muscala, who drilled it with 9.4 seconds left to play.
“Within the fourth quarter, I observed they went to a box-and-one,” stated Gilgeous-Alexander after the sport. “So, I knew that when I acquired by my man there could be 4 guys ready for me and I simply needed to attempt to draw as many guys as I may in. Pump faux, had a pair guys on me, then Mike was open.”
After all, Gilgeous-Alexander’s second-half heroics wouldn’t have been attainable had it not been for Dort’s first-half play.
The Thunder trailed by 10, 64-54, on the half, however it could’ve been much more had it not been for the 14 factors (of the 22 he scored for the sport) he poured in that first half.
In simply his third season as an undrafted free agent seemed over due to thought-of offensive limitations, Dort has develop into a key offensive participant for this Thunder workforce, and the assertive drives to the ring and easy-looking threes he was hitting within the first half of Wednesday’s sport have been good proof of the sort of participant he’s develop into.
“I feel beginning that off the way in which he did — being undrafted — was good early adversity for him that actually tempered his expectations and despatched an early sign that he’s gonna have earn every part he will get, and he has earned every part he’s gotten day after day since he’s been right here,” stated Thunder coach Mark Daigneault earlier than the sport of Dort.
Much more spectacular, is that this offensive enchancment in Dort’s sport hasn’t come on the expense of his famous and rightfully vaunted defensive skill.
“I don’t assume his defence has dropped off and, along with his offence selecting up, he simply brings it on each ends of the ground,” stated Daignealt. “Defensively, he’s develop into a luxurious for us. There’s lots of perimeter gamers within the league that may maintain you up at night time and we’ve acquired a man that’s an elite matchup towards these guys. And that’s to not say that he shuts them down, however he makes them earn every part and he’s powerful to play towards as a result of he simply retains coming and he’s additionally acquired nice physicality and he’s an excellent athlete.”
Dort’s defence was instrumental within the Thunder’s victory Wednesday, as he hounded Raptors guard Fred VanVleet all night time, holding VanVleet to only 6-of-20 capturing from the ground, regardless of VanVleet getting scorching late to make the sport extra fascinating down the stretch.
“He is a troublesome matchup,” stated Dort of VanVleet. “He can do rather a lot and he didn’t actually have it going within the first half and, , he simply stepped up on the finish and took some massive pictures and his workforce wanted him and felt like he did good simply taking powerful pictures and making them.”
Luckily for Dort and the Thunder, nonetheless, these massive pictures of VanVleet proved to return too late. Though given the additional enhance he and Gilgeous-Alexander acquired from enjoying at residence once more, it might not have mattered even when VanVleet had it going earlier.
“It’s an thrilling feeling, realizing all my household and associates are within the stands,” stated Hamilton native Gilgeous-Alexander of enjoying again residence once more. “It’s a court docket I grew up watching. It’s at all times enjoyable.”
Added the Montreal native Dort: “As a child simply, , all of the Canadians desires are to play right here on this enviornment and it was simply nice to have lots of people right here from Montreal, , simply right here supporting me and even some individuals I do not even know that was yelling my title within the crowd and stuff like that, so it simply felt nice. And, , it is at all times good to be again within the nation.”
And, higher but for Dort, he’s wanting ahead to doubtlessly representing the nation once more, as effectively.
“I can be collaborating within the subsequent Workforce Canada,” stated Dort on Tuesday when requested about participation with the nationwide workforce. “I’ll be there with them attempting to vie for a spot and I really feel like we could have an excellent workforce.”
For now, although, the workforce Dort, and Gilgeous-Alexander, is enjoying for are the Thunder who aren’t fairly so nice a workforce but.
But it surely’s constructing, and can proceed to constructed with numerous assist from the workforce’s two Northern Lights.