Shai Gilgeous-Alexander beats Luka Doncic in the first game a day before the MVP award is announced

OKLAHOMA CITY — Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of three finalists for the NBA Most Valuable Player award, may see the award announced Wednesday afternoon. He too had skipped it.

“Absolutely,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Why not? If you’re home. I didn’t know it was tomorrow.”

Gilgeous-Alexander does not burst with enthusiasm in almost any media environment. But his tame approach in this case is justified. The Thunder franchise isn’t preparing for a big press conference. The world already knows which way the wind is blowing. Nikola Jokic will win his third MVP award on Wednesday. Gilgeous-Alexander will finish second or third, ahead or behind Luka Doncic.

This is the yet-to-be-revealed drama, amplified by the moment. Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic face off in playoff series Gilgeous-Alexander just delivered the first blow, scoring 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in Game 1 in a 117-95 win over Doncic and the Mavericks. Just hours before the regular seasons that voters value most are revealed.

His night started with a score around and then over the top of Dončić. Both came after the Thunder looked for a switch, making room for Gilgeous-Alexander after Doncic arrived on the island. Here’s the layup:

Here is the faded baseline:

Gilgeous-Alexander dominated the first half with his extreme patience and ability to chase down mistakes as he dictated the direction of the night’s refereeing. Game 1 officials, led by crew chief Tony Brothers, described the first half of the opening series as tight. There were 21 combined fouls in the first half and 35 free throws.

See also  Inside the Mets' decision to fire Buck Showalter and his team's reaction

Neither team shot the ball well nor did they appear to be in much rhythm. The flow was intermittent. But that’s often when Gilgeous-Alexander – and Donjic – can grab the wheel. Gilgeous-Alexander did it best on Tuesday night.

On a possession late in the first quarter, the score was 17-17 and he scored early. Gilgeous-Alexander has little room in semi-shift against the defense without his position behind the job. So he drives straight to PJ Washington, absorbs the bump from hip to hip and throws a fly while Brothers whistles for a foul.

The Thunder wasted 11 of 16 seconds in the first half. Jalen Williams, the team’s second-leading scorer, missed his first six shots and did not score a point in the first half. He was 1 of 9 until the fourth quarter surge.

These are the moments — when Williams struggles, when outside shots don’t fall, when the defense is physical and the whistle is tight — when Gilgeous-Alexander is at his best. He can turn what is otherwise a weak and ineffective half into a 62-53 lead, working his way into free points by driving down the line into the slots, generating angles, colliding hips and amplifying contact.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 19 points in the first half and shot 11 free throws in the first half, making nine. Here are three other calls that earned him six of those 11 attempts:

The Mavericks didn’t complain about their postgame management publicly. The whistles decreased in the second half. The Mavericks shot 25 free throws in the game. The Thunder shot 28. Gilgeous-Alexander was fouled seven times and made 13 free throws. Doncic fouled seven times and took 10 shots.

See also  The White Sox chose Johnny Koito

“The officials did a good job tonight,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I thought they were consistent from end to end. Obviously we made some touch errors on Dončić and they were all mistakes. We have to be better in those situations. They had similar situations at the end of things. We adapted to the way they shot. I thought they shot It has a straight name.

The Thunder pulled away in the third quarter after Daigneault substituted Josh Giede and put on Isaiah Joe. Jedi, as expected, was gifted with space. He badly missed both of his 3-pointers and the Thunder were negative-7 in 17 minutes. After averaging 26.5 minutes (and playing well) in the first round, Guede’s 17 minutes were the fewest he had played in a game since December.

The text dictated it. So did Joe, Cason Wallace and Aaron Wiggins, the three options on the bench to replace Gedi. Entering the third quarter, Joe buried a 3 on his first possession. He made two. So did Wallace, who went after both Doncic and Kyrie Irving when tasked. Wiggins had the most important performance of his career, scoring 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench. All three were in double digit plus/minus. The Thunder outscored the Mavericks by 29 points with Jedi coming off the floor.

But it was Gilgeous-Alexander who stabilized the first half, and it was Gilgeous-Alexander who capped the third quarter tiebreaker with those two 3-pointers.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with a game-high 29 points. He had two courses. It was plus 21.

See also  College Football Playoff Rankings: Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan and Florida State remain at the top

On the other hand, Doncic and Irving struggled through tough nights, turning the ball over nine times and combining for 39 points on 33 shots. Irving, looking a bit tired, had four turnovers in the first half. Dončić had five. His 19 points (on 6-of-19 shooting) were his fewest in a game since mid-March.

Dončić did it in 41 minutes, a game-high, though he appeared to be limping on that sprained knee. Gilgeous-Alexander also limped at one point, suffering some knee contact. But he said he was fine after the game and should be more active after more than a week between series. It looked that way in the landslide win in the first game.

(Photo by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Doncic: Zach Baker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *