Heading into the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers were two teams I considered very similar and evenly matched. After Wednesday night, they’re an entertaining matchup, but there’s no question who the better team is.
Behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s first 40-point performance of the season and eighth of his career, OKC knocked off Cleveland 128-120, improving to 5-3 on the season.
A couple of things stuck out to me in tonight’s game. First of all, SGA got some calls and reclaimed his groove.
After only 31 free throw attempts through six games (roughly five attempts per game), SGA got to the line 13 times against a physical Cavaliers defense and scored 43 points on 15-of-22 shooting in an aggressive effort. My only criticism of SGA during his tenure in OKC has been his lack of aggressiveness. Well, against Cleveland, he didn’t have the option to be passive. Between the swift, physical, and defensive-minded backcourt of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Caris Levert off the bench, SGA had to adopt the “all gas, no brakes” mentality for him and his team to succeed.
Shai had an all-around performance, adding 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 1 blocked shot on the night.
Cason Wallace and Lu Dort are a terrifying tandem.
The scouting report is out on Dort and his defensive expertise. The league doesn’t know as much, if anything about Wallace, but they’re finding out that Wallace is basically Lu Dort 2.0. In other words, Wallace is ‘lil bro to Dort and you better believe he’s learning from him.
This presents a terrifying obstacle for opposing backcourts to overcome as evidenced in Wednesday night’s game. The duo spent significant time on both Garland and Mitchell, making their night hellacious. Yes, Mitchell scored 20 points, but it took him 23 shots to do so. Yes, Garland scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but most of those came when one of Dort or Wallace was on the bench.
Overall, Oklahoma City looked solid against Cleveland and have a lot to be excited about before hitting the road to play two Western Conference contenders; the Sacramento Kings on Friday and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.