Gilgeous-Alexander drives Thunder past Raptors |

TORONTO – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander grew up watching “NBA legends” at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. It is questionable whether he is on the way to becoming one himself.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 points with eight assists and seven rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder rolled past the struggling Toronto Raptors 123-103 on Friday.

“I grew up going to games here and watching Chris Bosh and a number of NBA legends play in this building,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s always a surreal moment.

“Having my friends and family in the audience is even more special.”

Gilgeous-Alexander came into the game averaging 30.9 points, 6.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game for Oklahoma City (48-20). He shoots 54.4 percent of his field goal attempts – making him the most accurate guard in the NBA – and his two steals per game are the most in the league.

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On Friday morning, he was officially presented with the Northern Star Award as Canada’s top athlete in 2023. A panel of sports media outlets from across the country selected Gilgeous-Alexander as the winner of the award in December, but he wasn’t able to collect the trophy until the Thunder’s only trip north of the border this season.

Chet Holmgren had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds as Oklahoma City (49-20) won its fourth straight. Jalen Williams added 20 points and Montreal’s Lu Dort scored 10.

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Rookie Gradey Dick led Toronto (23-47) with 21 points. Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, B.C., had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists as the struggling Raptors lost their ninth straight game.

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Toronto allowed season-highs of 27 turnovers and 37 points off turnovers.

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“We want to win games, that’s our top priority,” Dick said. “But being the rookie and the new guy, I’m grateful to be out there every night and just do my best to put us in a position to win and do my part.”

Gary Trent Jr. was left out of Toronto’s lineup before the game due to lower back stiffness. His absence added to a long list of inactive Raptors players, including Toronto’s entire starting lineup.

The Raptors were already missing forward Scottie Barnes (left hand fracture), center Jakob Poeltl (left hand ligament tear), forward guard RJ Barrett (personal reasons), point guard Immanuel Quickley (personal reasons) and forward Chris Boucher (partial MCL tear ). ) and guard DJ Carton (right ankle sprain).

“In my 26, 27 years as a coach, I have never experienced anything like this,” Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said of his team’s injury rate. “I don’t think I’ve seen that with other teams either.”

Although it seemed like a mismatch on paper, Dick scored eight points in the first six minutes of the game for an 11-point lead. Toronto closed the opening period with a 6-2 run and took a 35-28 lead.

Dick scored 13 points in the quarter, a career high in his first NBA season.

The Thunder hit back with a 15-2 run to open the second period and take the lead. The visitors outscored Toronto 35-21 in the second quarter, with Williams scoring eight goals to help Oklahoma City take a 63-56 lead into the break.

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To the delight of the 19,601 fans at Scotiabank Arena, Dick hit a 25-foot three-pointer from deep just 40 seconds into the fourth period, cutting the Thunder’s lead to 10. It began a 10-3 run that narrowed OKC to just took six minutes. Point advantage.

Williams helped Oklahoma City extend its lead again by scoring six goals in the quarter as the Thunder secured the win.

NO COMMITMENT, NO COMMENT – Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort and Olynyk are all part of the core of 14 players who have committed to represent Canada internationally, first at the FIBA ​​Men’s World Cup and then again this summer at the Olympics in Paris. Several Canadian NBA players, including Denver guard Jamal Murray, Indiana guard Andrew Nembhard and Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins, have not signed for Canada. Gilgeous-Alexander had no comment when asked if he would take those players to the Olympics.

“I would stay out of it,” Gilgeous-Alexander laughed. “I would (Rowan Barrett, Team Canada general manager) – he’s really good at his job – I would let him do his job.”

NEXT – The Raptors travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the Wizards (12-58) on Saturday.

Oklahoma City hosts the Milwaukee Bucks (45-25) on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2024.

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&Copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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