The OKC Thunder lost their second consecutive game, 118-107, to the Orlando Magic, and after an exciting road win against the Hornets, this whole rebuilding thing is making more sense.
The Thunder were relatively impressive tonight but lost this game due to their lack of experience, and this isn’t the last time that it’ll happen, either. The Magic got whatever they wanted down the stretch and are sitting atop the Eastern Conference as one of two undefeated teams in the NBA.
The Thunder may have lost, but they did get at least one percent better.
Everything is there for Poku, except for his shot.
Aleksej Pokusevski’s court vision is elite for a 19-year-old rookie. He dished out three assists, he’s an elite rebounder, probably because he’s seven feet tall, and his defensive awareness in the paint is there. He recorded two blocks on the night. The only thing that’s still a question for him is when the points will start to populate. Over his first three games, he’s shot 1-of-16 from the field. Knowing that he’s primarily a 3-point shooter, expect those shots to fall eventually, once he adjusts.
Diallo is very active, but he isn’t a primary or secondary ball-handler.
Hamidou proved why Sam Presti decided to keep him around for so long, making him the longest-tenured Thunder player on the roster. He can do a little bit of a lot. He’s extremely active, and his motor on the court signifies his potential if given a chance.
This season is his big chance to make an impact, and he’s seizing the moment. Against the Magic, Diallo finished with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds, two steals, and one block. All but one of his shots came from inside the paint, and the other came from 15 feet out. He didn’t attempt one shot beyond the 3-point line, and that proved beneficial for him.
Diallo isn’t your textbook guard. He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and possibly an inch shorter but resembles former Thunder Desmond Mason, who matches Diallo’s stature and played guard/forward. That’s Diallo’s position, and he’ll continue to thrive in that role.
Isiah Roby could be a guy the Thunder can depend on.
During preseason media availability, Roby discussed some confidence issues that he dealt with last year, only getting to play in three NBA games before Tuesday’s against Orlando. He got his first NBA start and didn’t disappoint whatsoever, finishing as OKC’s second-leading scorer with 19 points and seven rebounds on 9-12 shooting, including a paralyzing ball-fake on Nikola Vucevic, resulting in a SportsCenter Top 10-caliber slam.
Shai was very efficient but didn’t shoot enough.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s stat line was impressive: 23 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists on 8-of-10 shooting.
The problem resides in his attempted shots. SGA is only in his third NBA season, but it’s time for him to realize that his team needs him to grill when he starts cooking on the court. Tuesday night’s game was an instance where Shai should have taken over for 30-35 points and led the Thunder to a clutch victory, which would have only required four or five more shot makes and four or five more attempts. So realistically, SGA could have and probably should have shattered his career-high (32) tonight.
Interior defense is the reason OKC lost. Point. Blank. Period.
Seventy-two of Orlando’s 118 points came from inside the paint. More than half of OKC’s points came in the paint (58). If the Thunder would’ve cut Orlando’s paint production down to match theirs, this game would have fallen in a different direction. Especially with more shots and potentially free throws from SGA.
The Thunder will return home to play Steven Adams and the New Orleans Pelicans on New Year’s Eve before hitting the road for a five-game Eastern Conference road trip.