EDMOND, Okla. — The Thunder broke itself in half for Sunday’s Blue and White Scrimmage and in so doing put Chris Paul, Steven Adams and Danilo Gallinari on the same team, all but assuring the White squad would emerge victorious 76-60.
It also put Dennis Schroder on the White squad, thereby making Shai Gigeous-Alexander a full-time point guard for the Blue.
That meant the man often referred to as “SGA” had a chance to shine.
Predictably, White prevailed in the three-quarter scrimmage.
Also, SGA shined.
He led both sides in minutes, playing more than 27, led both with 21 points and eight field goals (of 13 attempts).
He got to the free-throw line six times, tying Adams for scrimmage-high honors and made four, tying Gallinari for scrimmage-high honors.
More telling, however, was watching him, which Thunder fans can do for the first time without being in the gym on Tuesday, when ESPN broadcasts Oklahoma City’s preseason opener against the Dallas Mavericks, taking place at BOK Center in Tulsa.
Gilgeous-Alexander changed speeds, he got into the lane whenever he wanted and made one particular shot, driving left, that would have blown the roof off a sold out Chesapeake Energy Arena, but in this case was reserved for a smattering of youngsters from the Guthrie YMCA who filled the limited seating of the Oklahoma City Blue’s practice facility.
That shot, from about 10 feet, was an underhanded lefty runner off a lefty dribble, made stunning not only because his right hand never touched the ball as he swept from the top of the key through the left elbow past a chasing Abdel Nader, but also because his body never elevated for the shot, leaving nobody to see it coming.
“I thought he played really, really well … Shai kind of playing playing point guard with the Blue team was good,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan, who was only an interested witness to the scrimmage, directing neither of the squads. “I thought he got in the lane, got guys shots, I though he was really, really efficient.”
In terms of finishing, Gilgeous-Alexander was better than almost all of his teammates.
Schroder made 5 of 6 from the field, all from within the 3-point arc, and was the only player on either team other than Gilgeous-Alexander to put up at least five shots and make more than half.
As for attempts like the fancy lefty runner and other moments he worked his way into the lane, Gilgeous-Alexander acknowledged the tools that create those moments are a big part of his game.
“That’s one of the things I work on, changing speeds and being deceptive,” he said. “I’m not the fastest guy and I know that, so I have to do it other ways.”
As a rookie Los Angeles Clipper a year ago, Gilgeous-Alexander played in all 82 games and started the last 73.
He played an average 26.5 minutes, scoring 10.8 points, dishing 3.3 assists and creating 1.2 steals.
The 6-foot-6, 181-pound guard did all that after playing one season of college basketball at Kentucky.
“He’s got a great wingspan, he’s a great finisher,” Donovan said. “I think he’s deceptive when he gets to the lane because of his length.
“He’s got an unbelievable way where he just gets by people and he gets around people and he gets into the lane. And when he gets into the teeth of the defense with his size, generally, good things happen.”
It was only a scrimmage, but they happened Sunday.