The Oklahoma City Thunder almost pulled the upset on Friday night.
Hosting a resurgent Washington Wizards squad, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a chance to win the game with a last-second heave with under three seconds left.
Though OKC’s young star was ultimately unable to convert, the Thunder hung with one of the deepest teams in the NBA, a great sign for the progress of the young core.
And while Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort led the way for Oklahoma City, it was a pair of Thunder reserves who gave the team a boost on Friday night.
Always a spark plug off the bench, Kenrich Williams took his game to another level to kick off the second quarter.
Getting to the rim a variety of ways, Williams was able to knock down 4-of-6 field goal attempts in the second quarter alone, adding all 11 of his points in the period.
The play of Williams forced the Wizards to bring back their starters a little ahead of schedule, and they ultimately battled back to take the halftime lead, but Williams was a net-positive to start off the second.
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Overall, Williams added five rebounds, an assist and a steal to his totals for the night, once again proving to be a difference maker off the bench.
Josh Giddey and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl have deservedly gotten most of the attention out of Oklahoma City’s rookie class this year, but first-round pick Tre Mann reminded everyone of his playmaking abilities that saw Sam Presti take him with the No. 18-overall pick.
Mann also scored all of his points in the second quarter, wracking up 7 points in a variety of ways.
He drilled shots from well beyond the 3-point line, he made defenders miss with his on-ball skills and flashed his athleticism and toughness by getting to the rim and finishing through tough contact.
Mann has gotten off to a slow start this year, but his G League assignment gave him plenty of confidence, which he has translated back to the NBA.
The former Florida Gator still needs to impact the game in different ways, as he finished with no rebounds, no assists and just one steal, but he has a much higher scoring upside off the bench than Theo Maledon, and the Thunder second unit hasn’t missed a beat with Mann in for the Frenchman.
Mann’s performance against Washington should provide another boost of confidence for him to build on, as the Thunder are willing to invest time in the first-round pick to bring him along this season.