The Oklahoma City Thunder haven’t had much success this season, regardless of circumstance.
They enter Monday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers tied for the third-fewest wins in the NBA.
But when Oklahoma City has won, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has played a big part, averaging 24.4 points, 7.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds in wins this season.
The Thunder are 0-5 this season without Gilgeous-Alexander in the lineup. Over the past two seasons, they’re 6-36 without their leading scorer, including 3-26 when he missed the last 29 games of last season.
They’ll have to work without Gilgeous-Alexander for an extended period once again after he suffered a right ankle sprain in Friday’s overtime loss to Indiana in Oklahoma City.
Gilgeous-Alexander will be out until at least after the All-Star break, missing at least the next 10 games.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s absence will mean more time for Josh Giddey at point guard.
The rookie has mostly played off the ball with Gilgeous-Alexander running the point.
“Naturally, the ball’s going to be in other guys’ hands a bit more,” Giddey said. “But nothing changes.”
The last time Gilgeous-Alexander was out, Jan. 2 against Dallas, the 19-year-old Giddey became the youngest player in NBA history with a triple-double, with 17 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds.
With a young team, though, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault wants to make sure his players don’t press too much without Gilgeous-Alexander.
“The slippery slope you can get into is thinking that everybody has to do more because you’re missing a player,” Daigneault said.
“There’s gonna be more opportunities, there’s gonna be more minutes, there’s gonna be more touches, but the actual way that everybody’s playing, we’re not changing the messaging on that at all,” he said.
The Trail Blazers have split the first two games of a four-game road trip, losing 130-116 at Chicago on Sunday.
Portland coach Chauncey Billups said he was confident in his team’s defense, which he said had been making progress before Sunday’s loss, where the Bulls had 36 assists — 21 in the first half.
“You don’t lose those things in one day,” Billups said. “We just didn’t have our best day. It’s an early game, on the road. Should have been better, but we weren’t.”
The Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic struggled to get going against the Bulls, attempting just five shots, his fewest since November and tying a season-low with four rebounds.
Portland is hopeful Larry Nance Jr. will be ready to return soon after missing the last 13 games with right knee inflammation. Nance hasn’t played since Jan. 5.
“I don’t know when,” Billups said. “He’s just progressing every day. He is getting better.”
Oklahoma City’s Derrick Favors has missed the last six games with back soreness, though he figures to return Monday after not being listed on Sunday’s injury report.
The Thunder come into Monday’s game on a seven-game losing streak and have dropped 12 of their last 13.
Monday’s game is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. They’ll also meet Friday in Portland.
–Field Level Media
Source: Yahoo Sports