(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

The Drive and Dish | April 11, 2024

Chet the Guard, Well-Rounded Wiggins

By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter and Digital Editor | okcthunder.com

A Possession with All Five, Shai Keeps His Options Open, Chet Comes off Curls and More! 

The Drive and Dish is here to answer the questions that might be going through your head during a Thunder game by providing experienced insight, highlighting aspects of the game you might have missed and pulling you behind the curtain with anecdotes, analysis, and stats.   

Here’s what you need to know as the Thunder wraps up the regular season at home with a clash against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and then the season finale on Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Mavericks. 

Thunder Thumps Spurs 

Running up an 11-0 lead in the opening minutes, the Thunder took complete control in the second night of a back-to-back and never looked back. Dominating the opening minutes was important for the Thunder to show the focused mentality on the floor that it did during the day on Wednesday. Never allowing the game to get close after that was even more impressive. 

Normally the Thunder would meet at the arena after playing the night before, but players asked if the team could meet to review film on Wednesday morning. That professional approach extended for the entire 48 minutes of the Thunder’s 127-89 thumping of the San Antonio Spurs. After pushing the lead out to 40-19 with 9:23 to go in the second quarter on a pair of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander free throws, the Thunder never allowed the Spurs to make it close again, leading by at least 29 the entire second half. 

For the game, the Thunder registered 12 steals and scored 28 points off 15 Spurs turnovers, generating 31 fast-break points. 

The win officially helped the Thunder register back-to-back seasons with jumps of 15 more wins than the season before, becoming just the sixth team to accomplish that feat in NBA history.

The Perfect Possession

After trailing by as many as 20, the Thunder’s goal coming out of halftime against the Kings was simple – make Sacramento Head Coach Mike Brown be the one who had to call the first timeout. High achievers that they are, the Thunder made Brown call the first two timeouts of the third quarter. 

After first bursting out on an 18-7 run to begin the third quarter, the Thunder ripped off another 6-straight points to slice the Kings lead down to just two points. The basket that forced that second timeout from Brown was one that epitomized what the Thunder wants to be about on the offensive end of the floor. Flowing into offense quickly, OKC started creating advantages early in the shot clock, and leveraged each step it had on the Kings defense into another and another as the ball hit all five players’ hands on the play. 

The ball swung around the perimeter and ended up with Jalen Williams. With a late closeout coming his way, Williams blew right past the converging defender and finished at the rim with a double-clutch layup. The run wasn’t the knockout blow, but it was just what the Thunder needed to get back into it on its way to a 112-105 victory. 

Shai's Immovable Pivot Foot 

There are high degree of difficulty shots that NBA stars can make that most basketball players around the world can't even attempt. As the Thunder made its final run to close out the comeback against the Kings, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander unfurled one of his craftiest finishes of the season. Up by 1 point with under 90 seconds to go, Shai got to the right elbow, one of his prime spots to create on the court. This time though, he got stalled by the Kings defense and was forced to pick up his dribble. 

Instead of throwing up a prayer or forcing a pass out to a covered teammate, Gilgeous-Alexander stayed patient and worked through the progression of his options. All the while, he somehow maintained his pivot foot as he took the temperature of Sacramento’s defense long enough to find an angle fading left toward the free throw line to hit a crucial late-game jumper. 

"Believe it or not, I work on that shot. I work on trying to create a shot with my dribble picked up,” said Gilgeous-Alexander after the game. “You never know when you're going to need something."

Chet Playing Like a Guard 

Without the services of Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams on the final four games of the road trip, the Thunder were put in one of those incredible development contexts that can unlock future success. One of the aspects of the game their absence opened up was getting more opportunities for Chet Holmgren to play a wing-like role on offense. In Philadelphia, he came flying off of screens, screaming around the top of the key for hand-offs and attacked off the bounce. 

In Charlotte, in some of the most crucial moments of the game, it was Holmgren who was serving as the ballhandler in an inverted pick and roll. Isaiah Joe, the smallest guy on the floor for the Thunder, set a screen for the 7-foot-1 Holmgren, and the rookie big man executed the perfect kickback pass to Joe for a catch-and-shoot 3 at the top of the key to put the Thunder ahead for good with 54.6 seconds remaining in a 121-118 road victory. 

Wiggins Taking the Temperature 

Like the mercury in an old-time thermometer, Thunder guard Aaron Wiggins seems to calibrate his reading to whatever the temperature is out there on the floor. On many nights, his role is to be in the grill of one of the opposing team’s best offensive players, laying it all on the line for 15 to 20 minutes in a supportive role on both sides of the ball. There are some nights where 3-point looks are flowing for him, others when runouts and points off turnovers are his main source of offensive opportunities. 

Then there are nights like Sunday in Charlotte when Wiggins, who grew up just 90 miles north of the Hornets’ Spectrum Center up in Greensboro, N.C. Without Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams and Gordon Hayward, Wiggins was charged with more of an on-ball role. Without some key playmakers, the Thunder needed to create offensive advantages by committee. 

Sensing what the team needed, Wiggins attacked closeouts, drove from the angle and the baseline and initiated some actions in pick and roll to kickstart the Thunder’s offense. He also playing an extremely active role in the Thunder’s defense, racking up a career-high six steals. For the first time in his NBA career Wiggins attempted 20 field goals in the game and finished with a season-high 26 points to go with five assists and helped the Thunder turn defense into offense.  

Looking Ahead

On Friday night the Thunder will take on the Milwaukee Bucks in the final Thunder Friday Night. That game will be broadcast locally for free via antenna on KSBI Channel 52 in OKC and 6.3 in Tulsa. Sunday afternoon’s game against the Mavericks will be aired on Bally Sports Oklahoma. Both games will also be available on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network. Follow along on our @okcthunder social accounts and stay here on the Thunder App or okcthunder.com

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