Gilgeous-Alexander propels Thunder past injury-plagued Raptors 123-103

TORONTO – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander grew up watching “NBA legends” at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. It’s arguable that he’s on his way to becoming one.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 points with eight assists and seven rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the injured Toronto Raptors 123-103 on Friday.

“I grew up coming to games here, watching Chris Bosh and a bunch of NBA legends play in this building,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s always a surreal moment.

“Having my friends and family in the crowd is even more special.”

Gilgeous-Alexander entered the game averaging 30.9 points, 6.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game for Oklahoma City (48-20). He is shooting 54.4 percent on his field goal attempts, making him the most accurate point guard in the NBA, and his two steals per game are the most in the league.

On Friday morning he officially received the Northern Star award as Canada’s top athlete in 2023. A panel of sports media from across the country selected Gilgeous-Alexander as the winner of the award in December, but he was unable to receive the trophy until the only Thunder’s trip north of the border this season.

Chet Holmgren had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds as Oklahoma City (49-20) won its fourth straight game. Jalen Williams added 20 points and Montreal’s Lu Dort scored 10.

Rookie Gradey Dick led Toronto (23-47) with 21 points. Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, BC, had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists as the ailing Raptors lost their ninth straight game.

Toronto allowed season highs of 27 turnovers and 37 points off turnovers.

“We want to win games, that’s the number one priority,” Dick said. “But me being the rookie and the new guy, I’m grateful to be out there competing every night and doing the best I can to put ourselves in position to win and do my part.”

Gary Trent Jr. was ruled out of Toronto’s lineup before the game with lower back tightness. His absence added to a long list of inactive Raptors players, including Toronto’s entire starting lineup.

The Raptors were already missing forward Scottie Barnes (broken left hand), center Jakob Poeltl (torn ligament in left hand), forward RJ Barrett (personal reasons), guard Immanuel Quickley (personal reasons), forward Chris Boucher (partial rupture of the medial collateral ligament). ), and guard DJ Carton (sprained right ankle).

“In my 26 or 27 years of coaching, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said of his team’s rash of injuries. “I don’t think I saw it on other teams either.”

Although it looked like a mismatch on paper, Dick scored eight points in the first six minutes of the game for an 11-point lead. Toronto closed the first period on a 6-2 run to maintain a 35-28 lead.

Dick scored 13 points in the quarter, a career-high in his first NBA season.

The Thunder fought back with a 15-2 run to open the second and take the lead. The visitors outscored Toronto 35-21 in the second quarter and Williams scored eight to help Oklahoma City take a 63-56 lead into intermission.

Dick hit a deep 25-foot 3-pointer just 40 seconds into the fourth quarter to the delight of the 19,601 fans at Scotiabank Arena and cut the Thunder’s lead to 10. It began a 10-3 run that brought OKC to just six- points advantage.

Williams helped Oklahoma City extend its lead again, scoring six in the quarter as the Thunder held on for the win.

NO COMMITMENT, NO COMMENT – Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort and Olynyk are part of the core of 14 players who have committed to represent Canada internationally, first at the FIBA ​​Men’s World Cup and then again this summer at the Paris Olympics. Several Canadian NBA players, including Denver guard Jamal Murray, Indiana guard Andrew Nembhard and Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins, did not sign to play for Canada. Gilgeous-Alexander did not comment when asked if he would accept those players coming to the Olympics.

“I would stay out of it,” Gilgeous-Alexander laughed. “I would let (Team Canada general manager Rowan Barrett), who is very good at his job, let him do his job.”

UNTIL NEXT TIME – The Raptors travel to Washington, DC to face the Wizards (12-58) on Saturday.

Oklahoma City visits the Milwaukee Bucks (45-25) on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2024.

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