OKC’s headed in the right direction, Wednesday proved it

After hearing that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander wouldn’t play in Oklahoma City’s Tuesday matchup against the league-leading Boston Celtics, any halfway-educated basketball mind would assume that Boston would sweep right through the Paycom Center with an easy win.

That was very far from reality, as OKC handled, better yet, manhandled the team with the best record in the NBA with their most impressive performance of the season, 150-117. This game set a record for the most points scored by a Thunder team and was the second-most points allowed by the Celtics in their storied history.

So, how’d they do it?

OKC got the best individual performance from each player that touched the court, with seven players scoring in double figures and five scoring more than 20 points, which also made history. Five players scored 20 or more points in 2019 for the Thunder; the last time that happened was in 2004.

OKC flexed their muscles, boasting that “Next Man Up” moniker once again, as Josh Giddey stepped into that leadership role for the Thunder, scoring 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists with no turnovers. Rookie Jalen Williams (21 points) and Luguentz Dort (23 points) combined for well-rounded performances. A player that secretly could have made the biggest impact was Aaron Wiggins, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists on 7-of-8 shooting while applying insufferable pressure on Boston’s stars, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart – who was frustrated into two technical fouls, getting ejected from the contest in the third quarter.

Where is the ultimate credit due? Mark Daigneault. You must point your finger at everything Daigneault is doing in Oklahoma City. Unlike OKC’s other three coaches – PJ Carlesimo, who failed in his short stint in OKC. Scott Brooks inherited two first-ballot Hall of Fame players but slightly underachieved with no title to show for it, and Billy Donovan for the same reason.

Daigneault was expected to be a placeholder in the organization by most Thunder fans. He was just a coach to have in place during the rebuild because he fostered a great relationship with the younger players due to his time with the Oklahoma City Blue G-League squad.

Instead, Daigneault has gotten the most out of his teams, and that’s starting to show this season.

Oklahoma City is 16-21 on the season and currently is 1.5 games out of a play-in spot. Before the 2022-23 season, in The Athletic’s John Hollinger’s 2022-23 season preview, he had OKC finishing 20-62, which would be among the worst records in the league, if not, the worst. If the Thunder goes 4-0 over the next week, which will signify the season’s halfway point, they’ll reach Hollinger’s season prediction.

Regardless, it’s safe to say OKC is overachieving, and Mark Daigneault should be credited for what he’s getting effort-wise out of each of his guys.

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