SGA saves Thunder from big collapse

Dec 26, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard forward Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) shoots as he is defended by Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo (8) during the first half at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE––It wasn’t pretty but it was a win, despite what many people really wanted.

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Charlotte Hornets 109-107 in a game that was much closer than what it should’ve been but a win is a win.

In the tanking world, it was a battle for who could look the best but lose. You win this round, Charlotte.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a 22-foot jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining to give Oklahoma City the win after Charlotte went on a three-point shooting tear in the final two minutes of the game to pull themselves back from down 13.

SGA had missed two of his last four free throws from intentional fouling that gave the Hornets the real shot of getting back into the contest. His fourth quarter wasn’t as spectacular as you would like, despite finishing with 24 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. We’ll have more on his performance in our keys to the game.

Charlotte led 59-57 at the break as by as many as 11 in the game before the Thunder started clawing their way back in the game.

George Hill was a large reason as to why the Thunder were going to get back in the game. He was solid in the first half, going 5 of 5 from the floor for 11 points.

Darius Bazley hit a cutting layup with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter as Oklahoma City took their first lead since the first quarter.

Oklahoma City gained the lead for good when Hill hit another three to put Oklahoma City on a 9-0 run and SGA’s layup forced the Hornets into a timeout and propelled the Thunder on an 11-0 run. Hill would finished with 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting and only one turnover.

Hill’s last three-pointer of the night put Oklahoma City ahead 102-89 with 2:13 remaining and in any other game and any other season, that would be the game but credit Charlotte, they battled back.

Makil Bridge hit three threes in the final 25 seconds to pull the Hornets even with 10.3 seconds remaining.

Then, SGA went to work. He took Caleb Martin off the dribble, forcing him unbalanced and he stepped back for the silky jumper to ice it with 1.4 seconds remaining.

Five different Thunder players scored in double figures with SGA leading the way.

Oklahoma City will now host divisional rival, the Utah Jazz, on Monday at the ‘Peake. There are no fans allowed currently and the game will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports Oklahoma.

Keys to the Game

Don’t let anyone go off: B
I thought Oklahoma City did a really good job not really letting anyone do whatever they wanted. While the Hornets had seven in double figures, they did a good job of limiting what Charlotte’s one person could do, always forcing to another. LaMelo Ball did have 13 points – all in the first half.

Bench Production: D
Outside of Mike Muscala, the bench squad is going to have a rough year, especially early. The two draft picks were a combined minus-29 on the +/- scale. SGA is going to have many games this year where his on/off numbers are going to rival Russell Westbrook’s in 2016-17. This was going to be a flat F because of how Aleksej Pokuvevski played. However, the play of Kenrich Williams was admirable. His numbers don’t really show how hard he played.

Let SGA be SGA: C+
Sure, across the board SGA had solid numbers but stats are misleading. His misses down the stretch on free throws hurt this team and that’s when you want leaders to step up. He also had five turnovers on the night, two in the final two minutes. There were some good and some rough moments but to remember it’s game one of Year 3.

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