Gilgeous-Alexander Helps Thunder Overcome Wembanyama, Spurs, To Win 4th Straight 140-114

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 32 points and 10 assists, and the Thunder overcame 24 points and 12 rebounds from Wembanyama to beat the Spurs 140-114 on Wednesday night.

Thursday, January 25th 2024, 2:41 pm

By: Associated Press


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Oklahoma City did not lose sight of its objective even as the focus was squarely on the battle between San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama and fellow rookie Chet Holmgren.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 32 points and 10 assists, and the Thunder overcame 24 points and 12 rebounds from Wembanyama to beat the Spurs 140-114 on Wednesday night.

Holmgren had 17 points and nine rebounds as Oklahoma City won its fourth straight. The Thunder remain tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves atop the Western Conference at 31-13.

“All credit to Vic,” Holmgren said. “Obviously, a great player, very, very talented, even at an early stage in his career. But I can’t let that matchup take away from what the job was tonight and that was trying to win a basketball game. Thunder versus Spurs.”

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault attempted to downplay the matchup between two of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year in Wembanyama and Holmgren.

“It’s a team sport, not tennis,” Daigneault said.

But it was difficult to ignore a pair of 7-footers with a unique set of skills.

It was especially hard to ignore after Wembanyama said “every game is a statement” after Holmgren won his second straight Rookie of the Month.

Wembanyama was 9 for 18 from the field but missed all three of his 3-point attempts. He added four blocks, four assists and a steal in 28 minutes.

“The way he played tonight is the way he tries to play every night,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s not because of any one individual. He plays hard. He competes. He’s learning every day.”

Wembanyama opened the skirmish with a spin move around Holmgren in the paint to bank in a layup.

The No. 1 pick from France later turned to glare at Holmgren after throwing down a one-handed dunk on him with two minutes left in the first half.

“My first goal is always to win,” Wembanyama said. “In a game like this, I don’t think about that, especially in a loss.”

Holmgren’s 3-pointer gave Oklahoma City its biggest lead at the time at 103-76 a minute into the fourth quarter. Wembanyama responded on the following possession by bullying through Holmgren for a two-handed dunk and a staredown. Holmgren was assessed an offensive foul for pushing Wembanyama on the next possession.

In the end, Oklahoma City’s balanced attack proved too much for San Antonio.

“Early in the game, their weak side was collapsing on like every drive,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Just randomly, it wasn’t like a rotation, especially Victor. He would just come in on every drive and try to block it. I think we got caught a couple of times early in the game and then once we started not taking the bait and moving it, they were spread out and we were able to get layups later in the game.”

Playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Thunder shot 56% from the field and were 18 for 40 on 3-pointers. Six players scored in double figures, including Aaron Wiggins with 22.

“We played well in the first half, but the 3-point shots really hurt us,” Popovich said. “And they scored 30 points off our turnovers. If you’re not going to shoot 3s, you can’t double down by giving up 30 points off turnovers or you’re going to get your (butt) kicked like tonight.”

Devin Vassell had 21 points for the Spurs. San Antonio was 9 for 32 on 3-pointers.

Oklahoma City led by 19 points four minutes into the second half. The Thunder were 11 for 22 on 3-pointers in the first half and the Spurs were 3 for 15.

Spurs second-year guard Blake Wesley made his second career start in place of Tre Jones, who missed the game with a sprained left ankle. Wesley finished with 12 points and six assists.

“We felt (Jones’ absence) with the lack sometimes of organization,” Wembanyama said. “His expertise is precious. I could feel especially in the second half, third quarter that we needed him, but it happens in a season.”

UP NEXT

Thunder: At New Orleans on Friday night.

Spurs: Host Portland on Friday night.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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