Gilgeous-Alexander scores 26 as Thunder roll past Wembanyama-less Spurs, 127-89


OKLAHOMA CITY — Thunder coach Mark Daigneault has preached all season that his team is about the process rather than results.

Wednesday’s performance supported his claim. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 26 points in 26 minutes, and Oklahoma City rolled past the Victor Wembanyama-less San Antonio Spurs 127-89.

Wembanyama, one of the league’s rising stars as a rookie, was out with an injured right ankle. San Antonio’s No. 2 scorer, Devin Vassell, was out with a foot injury, No. 3 scorer Keldon Johnson was out with a sprained left foot and No. 4 scorer Jeremy Sochan missed the game with a left ankle issue.

Oklahoma City still approached the game as it normally would. The Thunder ran out to an 11-0 lead as the Spurs missed their first seven shots and didn’t score for more than three minutes at the start. The Thunder led 34-11 at the end of the first quarter. It was the fewest points Oklahoma City has allowed in any quarter this season.

“I thought we were businesslike and serious to start the game, both ends of the floor, and really sustained it throughout,” Daigneault said. “I thought we did a nice job tonight, playing the way that we want to play and stacking those possessions, regardless of the scoreboard. So give the guys a lot of credit.”

Josh Giddey had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and Gordon Hayward added 18 points for the Thunder, who won their third straight and improved to 55-25 overall.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was sitting Wembanyama because it was the second game of a back-to-back set and he was looking out for his star’s long-term health. He didn’t say if Wembanyama would return Friday.

“I feel badly because he’s not a happy camper right now,” Popovich said before the game. “He wants to be out there, but I’m looking at the long view. And, you know, we’ve had some trouble with this particular injury during the season.”

Zach Collins had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs.

The Thunder entered the night just one game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves in the race for the best record in the Western Conference with three games remaining. The Thunder say they are more interested in playing well down the stretch than worrying about their position in the standings.

“We’re not going to white knuckle the last week of the season and watch the standings because we haven’t done that all year,” Daigneault said. “We’ve just really focused on being the best team we can be, and that’s what we’ll continue to do all the way through to 82.”

Oklahoma City led 68-35 at halftime. The Thunder held San Antonio to 28.6% shooting and scored 22 points off San Antonio’s 10 turnovers before the break. Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey each scored 18 points in the first half. It was a season low in points allowed for the Thunder in a half this season.

Despite the score, Popovich was just glad to see some of his young players compete.

“Doesn’t matter what’s going on on the court, it’s about them executing — how to play not just with each other, but improving their individual games,” he said. “They’re all young guys trying to make a career. So all the minutes of that experience adds up over time.”

UP NEXT

Spurs: Host the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

Thunder: Host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA



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