Thunder complete series sweep of Beal-less Wizards, 127-110
The Associated Press - January 7, 2023 7:41 am
By MURRAY EVANS Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder completed a regular-season sweep of the Washington Wizards with a 127-110 win on Friday night.
Josh Giddey added 20 points, nine assists, and five rebounds for Oklahoma City, which shot 51% from the field, including 45.9% (17 of 37) from 3-point range. The Thunder seized control with a dominant first quarter – outscoring the Wizards 35-17 – and nine Oklahoma City players made at least one 3-pointer.
“We were good tonight … from start to finish,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “They’re a good basketball team. They’d won four of their last six (games). We were good on both ends of the floor for a long period of time tonight.”
Kyle Kuzma scored 23 points, Daniel Gafford had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Kristaps Porzingis added 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Wizards, who were playing without their top scorer, Bradley Beal. Beal was diagnosed on Thursday with a low-grade left hamstring strain and won’t be re-evaluated for at least a week.
Oklahoma City needed a last-second basket from Gilgeous-Alexander to win 121-120 at Washington on November 16th, but the Thunder mostly cruised in the rematch, leading by as many as 27 points. Oklahoma City committed only six turnovers while the Wizards had 20.
“In general, that first quarter, moreso first half, I don’t think we had the right mindset,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We looked a little sluggish. You could argue (it was) a long trip, this, that and the other, but no excuse. We’ve got to do better to start with energy and our approach. They kind of outplayed us in a lot of areas in the first half.”
A 14-2 run early in the first quarter put Oklahoma City ahead 21-9 and the Thunder’s lead never fell below double digits the rest of the game. Oklahoma City scored the final eight points of the first half to take a 68-42 lead. That was the Thunder’s largest halftime lead of the season.
“I think we defended really well,” Giddey said. “It was a collective effort. We got out in transition. We ran and we made them call a bunch of timeouts. We built a lot of momentum through the first and we carried it through, for the most part, for 48 minutes.”
Despite a 38-point third quarter for the Wizards, they came no closer than 18 points. That’s in good part because they also allowed the Thunder 35 points in the period.
Washington pulled within 14 points at 117-103 with 4:55 left on a basket by Gafford, but rookie Jalen Williams hit a pair of free throws and Gilgeous-Alexander followed with a basket with 3:49 left, ending the threat. Washington made 7 of 24 3-point attempts (29.2%).
Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault, on his team’s fast start: “We were in a nice groove offensively to start, that’s for sure. I thought we came out with great intention from a physicality standpoint. We had our chests on them early. … We didn’t ease into it at all. … We’re a little bit smaller right now and it’s really forcing us to be super physical.”
Thunder: Williams just missed a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds. … Luguentz Dort overcame foul trouble and scored 18 points. … Washington’s 17 points were the fewest first-quarter points allowed by the Thunder this season. … Dating to last season, Gilgeous-Alexander has recorded 32 30-point performances over his last 47 games played.
The Thunder host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.