The Oklahoma City Thunder made history on Wednesday night by becoming the first Western Conference 10-seed to win a play-in game, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a big reason why. The 24-year-old NBA All-Star scored 32 points and defended well, helping the Thunder secure a 123-118 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. With one more win needed to make the 2023 playoffs, Gilgeous-Alexander is focused on his team’s internal growth and getting better every day.
Despite being the NBA’s youngest team and playing without injured rookie forward Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Thunder have exceeded expectations this season. With a talented young core that includes Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, and Jalen Williams, age has been nothing but a number for Oklahoma City. The Thunder have been battle-tested and know what it takes to win games.
Gilgeous-Alexander has been a standout player all season, ranking fourth in the NBA in scoring during the regular season with an average of 31.4 points per game. Despite being limited to just seven points in the first half of the play-in game against the Pelicans, he came alive in the second half and scored 25 points, including six in the final 29 seconds. He also played excellent defense, helping to force the Pelicans into 4-of-19 shooting and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc as the primary defender.
The odds may be against the Thunder on Friday when they face the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road, a team they went 1-3 against during the regular season. However, Gilgeous-Alexander has had success against the Timberwolves this season, averaging 33.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds in three games. He will likely be guarded by fellow All-Star guard Anthony Edwards, and the game promises to be another do-or-die situation.
Gilgeous-Alexander remains focused on his team’s internal growth and getting better every day, regardless of whether he receives external attention or not. He acknowledges that winning games and being on TV will increase his exposure, but he does not let it distract him from his goals. He is a hidden treasure in the NBA, but if he can lead the Thunder to the playoffs, he may become a household name.
The Thunder’s success this season can be attributed to their talented young core, excellent coaching, and a team-first mentality. They have exceeded expectations and have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with. Whether or not they make it to the playoffs, they have laid a solid foundation for the future and have shown that they are a team to watch.
In conclusion, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder have made history by becoming the first Western Conference 10-seed to win a play-in game. Gilgeous-Alexander has been a standout player all season, and his leadership has been instrumental in the Thunder’s success. With one more win needed to make the playoffs, the Thunder are focused on their internal growth and getting better every day. Whether or not they make it to the playoffs, they have shown that they are a talented and resilient team that is a force to be reckoned with.