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Mar 21, 2024 4:17 pm

Shai Gilgeouos-Alexander heads home as Thunder meet Raptors

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander reacts

The Oklahoma City Thunder aim to extend their winning streak to four games Friday against the undermanned Toronto Raptors.

Chet Holmgren had 35 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday night as the Western Conference-leading Thunder (48-20) defeated the visiting Utah Jazz 119-107.

The Raptors (23-46), meanwhile, lost their eighth in a row on Wednesday, 123-89 to the visiting Sacramento Kings. Immanuel Quickley (personal) was added Wednesday to the long list of Raptors on the sidelines.

The Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was born in Toronto and is from nearby Hamilton, Ont., will enter Friday’s game in Canada after scoring 31 points with seven assists against the Jazz.

Gilgeous-Alexander became the 13th player in NBA history to score 30 points or more 50 times in a single season. He is the fifth to do it in the last 35 seasons, joining Michael Jordan (twice), James Harden, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady.

Holmgren scored 18 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, as the Thunder led by four points early in the final period before they started to pull away.

“It’s hard to run on makes,” said Jalen Williams, who scored 18 points for the Thunder. “I think we just collectively got a couple big stops. … From there, (the Jazz) are kind of on their heels. Offensively, we’re in a flow. It just goes down from there.”

Said Thunder coach Mark Daigneault: “Credit Utah, they really competed tonight. I thought they were the more physical team after the first six minutes of the game, and that really tested us.”

Oklahoma City trailed 61-57 early in the third but used an 11-0 run to pull ahead 68-61. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 points in the third quarter.

“I thought in the second half we showed good persistence,” Daigneault said. “We tried to amp it up on the defensive end. The game didn’t open up for us right away, but we kept at it, and then that group to start the fourth quarter really ignited the rest of the game.”

Holmgren was a presence inside with three blocked shots to go along with his 14 rebounds.

“Some shots didn’t fall from the outside, but we did a good job of not just saying, ‘We’re a team that’s going to win when we make shots,'” Holmgren said. “We found other ways to open up the game and pull away at the end.”

Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic feels that his team still has a good attitude despite the struggles.

“It’s just a desire to do better,” Rajakovic said. “Everybody’s eager to perform better, to compete better. A lot of players are playing outside of their roles and something they’re not accustomed to.

“And nobody’s expected from this group to be something that they’re not, but they really got to be stars in their roles. They got to do small things for each other and that’s going to really help them to perform better and to be competitive in all of those games.”

Gary Trent Jr. scored 18 points on Wednesday for the Raptors, who have dropped 10 of their last 11 games.

Quickley was added to the list of missing players that includes Scottie Barnes (hand), Jakob Poeltl (finger), RJ Barrett (personal), Chris Boucher (knee), and D.J. Carton (ankle).

“When you’re going through situations like this, it takes time and it’s not happening overnight,” Rajakovic said. “And we had a couple of games that we were very competitive against good teams. Tonight, that was not the case.

“We missed Immanuel Quickley as well, adding to the list and then during the game we lost Jontay Porter (illness) as well. We’re just like going down the stretch and just, you know, we’re pretty thin right now.”

–Field Level Media

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