Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Oklahoma City plays Houston every other game, and it always seems personal. Last night, the Thunder throttled the Rockets by a final score of 133-96 to improve to 28-29 on the season. Putting them one, yes, ONE game out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Led by All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 26 points and six dimes, here are five facts to keep in mind about this Thunder team:
Fact 1: Shai’s aggression sets the tone
SGA has been extremely aggressive the last 17 games, and it’s been getting him to the line at an average of 11 times per matchup, shooting 91.4% over that stretch. The key to that is when he’s aggressive. The Thunder competes with a fire that we haven’t seen since the 2016-2017 season. He sets the standard, and the guys rise up.
Fact 2: No Chet? No problem
The Thunder have developed the 2022 Rookie Class extremely well. So well that what was sure to be a doomed season with the absence of 2nd overall pick Chet Holmgren due to injury has seen rookies Jalen and Jaylin Williams (no relation) step up incredibly. J-Will showing he’s coming to his own, leading the way last night with 16 boards, and J-Dub helping further make his case for rookie of the year has made fans even more excited for Chet’s debut next season. This brings me to the next fact.
Fact 3: Oklahoma City is one key ingredient away
If Chet can come out next season and dominate the paint like many hope he can, the Thunder have a chance to make a very deep run. The biggest weakness the Thunder show is a lack of paint presence on both ends of the floor. While it wasn’t an issue last night, rebounding and post-scoring have been the Achilles heel for the Thunder against the more elite teams. Shore that up, and you’re cooking with grease, as the kids say.
Fact 4: Coach Mark Daigneault is the greatest coach in Thunder history
No, Coach Daigneault has not coached this team to a Finals appearance…yet. However, his situational awareness and ability to get his guys to buy into the system are telling. Mark Daigneault is a player’s coach, and he does on the court what Sam Presti does in the front office: put winning formulas together.
Fact 5: A break could be the best thing that happens for this team
With last night being the final game before the All-Star break, I firmly believe that that’ll be what helps energize the NBA’s, once again, the youngest team to make the final push for playoff positioning. There will be three players represented in the NBA’s biggest weekend of the season, and if nothing else, this will give the Thunder a taste of what it’s obvious they desperately want: Glory. Tasting that might wake up the beast that we know is waiting to attack.
The Thunder doesn’t have another game until the 23rd of February, but SGA, Josh Giddey, and Jalen Williams will all represent Oklahoma City this weekend in the All-Star festivities. Thunder fans, let this be a preview of what will once again be a familiar sight, the Thunder staking their claim among the league’s best.