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Josh Giddey Continues to Dazzle, Even Without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The Thunder rookie appeared to be in total command of the offense with OKC's star out of the lineup with an ankle injury.

Josh Giddey continues to prove Sam Presti right.

Oklahoma City’s No. 6-overall pick is thriving in his first season in Oklahoma City, and he looked good again against the Atlanta Hawks even though Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was out of the lineup.

Playing alongside Gilgeous-Alexander this season, Giddey ranks eighth in points per game amongst rookies, third in rebounds and first in assists, but he proved he could make the Thunder offense run even without OKC’s new star.

On Monday night, Giddey finished with fifteen points, seven rebounds and eight assists in Oklahoma City’s 113-101 defeat.

Though it was always going to be tough to pull out the win without Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey said it was a good experience to have to run the show all by himself.

“It was fun,” Giddey said after the game. “… (Gilgeous-Alexander) is a big loss for us. Including me, other guys are going to have to step up as well.

“… For me, it’s a learning experience. I mean, it’s the first time I’ve played without him. I had the ball a bit more than I probably would and played a bit more, so it was good.”

Things looked especially good in the first half for the Thunder offense.

Oklahoma City struggled mightily to knock shots down from deep, but they did a good job of continuing to move the ball regardless and the Thunder put up 60 first half points and headed into the locker room only down six.

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Atlanta did a good job making adjustments in the second half, as the Hawks held the Thunder to just 11 points in the third quarter, but Giddey and the OKC offense rallied in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City fought until the very end, outscoring Atlanta 30-20 in the final period.

Giddey said it was a game he could take some positives from even though the Thunder ultimately fell short of victory.

“It was against a team that was in the Eastern Conference Finals, so it gives me confidence going forward,” Giddey said. “… I’m learning the NBA game as we go and I’m picking those things up slowly. So I think especially without Shai tonight, I had the ball in my hands a fair bit more and it was good. I learned a lot.

“… I’m growing at a steady pace and I think until he gets back, it’s going to continue to get better.”

Oklahoma City assistant coach David Bliss, who was serving as head coach for OKC’s three-game road trip while Mark Daigneault was expecting the birth of his child, said he was really impressed with how well Giddey directed the show and got the Thunder into their half court offense when the Hawks erased the fast break by getting back quickly on defense.

“He was able to get us into sets and get everybody organized,” Bliss said of Giddey after the game. “He showed some good poise there so credit to him for continuing to build that piece of his game.

“It’s easy to look at the numbers sometimes with players and evaluate that. But just learning game management and where to attack, how to attack, when to attack and stuff like that, that takes time. But he’s picking that up really well.”

The Thunder will now return back to Oklahoma City for a few games, and while the status of Gilgeous-Alexander’s sprained ankle is still unknown, Giddey said he’s confident the team will continue to learn and grow no matter who is in the lineup.

“I think I can spark for the other guys as well — the direction we’re going in is positive,” Giddey said. “The spirit is high with this group.”

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