Injured Raptors must contend with Thunder G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Posted on: 03 Feb, 2024 at 10:10 PM
Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been on the best offensive tear of his six-year NBA career.
Entering Sunday's game against the Toronto Raptors in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Thunder star has scored 30 or more points in nine consecutive games.
But it's been Gilgeous-Alexander's defense that has stood out to those around him lately.
"The steals has been an ongoing thing, the blocks has been an ongoing thing, but his defense has improved every single year he's been in the NBA," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.
Gilgeous-Alexander leads the NBA with 2.3 steals per game and is third in the league in scoring at 31.3 points per game.
"He's really vocal on the defensive side, just calling the coverages and all that, too," Thunder teammate Luguentz Dort said of Gilgeous-Alexander. "Just him being aggressive, it just feeds off on the other guys on the team. One, just our best player doing that, and also, it is great that he's so good at this and he does it a lot so we can go run in transition."
Gilgeous-Alexander is coming off a big performance -- 31 points, nine assists, five steals, three blocks, three rebounds in Friday's 126-106 win over Charlotte.
Oklahoma City has won back-to-back games and seven of its last nine.
In that nine-game span, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 32.6 points, 7.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 0.9 blocks.
"Obviously one of the best guards in the league," Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said of Gilgeous-Alexander. "Extremely dynamic player that can touch the paint anytime he wants, a really good scorer. ... So it's going to be, again, it has to be a team effort there."
The Raptors are coming off a 135-106 blowout loss to the Rockets on Friday. Toronto has lost 10 of its last 12.
Oklahoma City and Toronto are two of the NBA's top five teams in assist-to-turnover ratio, with the Raptors at 2.19 and the Thunder at 2.14.
The Thunder have been without starter Jalen Williams and top 3-point shooter Isaiah Joe during their last two games.
Williams has been out with a right ankle sprain and Williams has a bruised sternum.
The Raptors have also been without RJ Barrett for their last three games with left knee inflammation while Jontay Porter missed Friday's loss with back spasms.
The injuries have played a part in an expanded role for veteran Thaddeus Young.
Over the last five games, Young is averaging 10.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in nearly 26 minutes per game.
Before this stretch, Young played more than 24 minutes just twice.
"I could speak about Thad Young for the whole night," Rajakovic said. "It's not just what he does on the court. It's everything that he does off the court as well. This whole season when he was not playing, he was not in rotation, he always stayed in shape, he was always part of the play groups, he always was the right voice for our team, he was always building our guys.
"It's great to see him out on the court playing."
The meeting is the first of two between the teams this season. They split their two meetings last season.
Sunday's game is the last of a four-game homestand for the Thunder. For Toronto, the game is the fourth in a six-game road trip.
--Field Level Media