In a battle of Western Conference bottom dwellers, the Oklahoma City Thunder fell on the wrong side of the coin, falling to the San Antonio Spurs 118-96 on Wednesday evening.
After averaging 29.3 points across his previous three contests, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to star in San Antonio, logging a mere 13 points on a flaky 5-of-21 shooting palate.
Though the Thunder failed to lead past the first quarter, trailing by 34 at their worst point, production from Mark Daigneault’s traditional bench unit reduced some blowback displayed by the typical starters.
Here were the top performers from Wednesday’s meeting:
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Following two games of coming off the bench, Daigneault called upon Aaron Wiggins to start versus the Spurs – the second rounder made the most of his opportunity.
Facing another small-ball piece in Keldon Johnson to open the contest, Wiggins put forth a hardy effort in keeping the former Kentucky Wildcat to the perimeter for play. However, his biggest impact came across in the scoring column – logging a team-high 19 points across an 8-of-11 clip while hounding down eight rebounds.
Uber-efficient shooting displays have become the norm for Wiggins since getting a minute uptick as following Wednesday, he’s added seven performances shooting above 50% (minimum five FGA.)
Wiggins’ consistent efforts on both ends have mustered a strong case for the former Terrapin to fetch a full-time role within the starting unit, booting out day-one starter in Darius Bazley. Time will ultimately tell if either Wiggins or Bazely will nab a starting gig for the season’s remainder, though with Daigneault preaching matchups and exploration – it’s unlikely management will rush into any decisions.
As one of Oklahoma City’s craftiest scorers, Tre Mann put forth a strong opening statement in The Lone Star State.
Mann put his shot-creation ability on notice to open play, canning down seven points (3-of-3 FG) in his first five minutes, highlighted by a transition right-winged three, created by his hallmarked stepback. The guard failed to yield any additional points by the end of his 16-minute sample, concluding the night with seven points and two assists.
Though the former Gator’s offensive spark lasted a lowly five minutes, missing his closing four shot attempts, his short lived scoring tangent peered into his future hold within the roster – providing the team with first-option play in his top moments.
With fellow backcourt member Ty Jerome holding a hot hand during the month of January (7.1 PPG), handing Mann ample opportunities have been on-and-off recently. The sporadic outputs may change as a result of Wednesday.
With a 10-day deal ticking down in time, Mamadi Diakite was in major need of a big game in San Antonio – he converted.
Daigneault placed a magnifying glass on Diakite Wednesday, netting the big man a season-high 19 minutes. With the spotlight shining bright, the 24-year-old big posted his best stat line on payroll, adding eight points (4-of-6 FG) and three rebounds in his stint on the floor.
The former Virginia Cavalier struggled mightily in marking his territory on boxouts, oftentimes being completely walled by San Antonio bigs, but he did hang in other departments. In the paint, the 6-foot-9 center found his touch, cashing in all four makes inside via dump-offs and post hooks. Additionally, his nimbleness made him a solid screen setter in high-ball screens.
Though Diakite is on the backend of his 10-day contract, Oklahoma City will have the option to send a second 10-day deal, if interested, or offer the big a standard or two-way deal. With a fully-stocked two-way roster, Paul Watson Jr. would be the likely option to go. Watson Jr. is currently on assignment with the Oklahoma City Blue.