TORONTO, Ont. (December 26, 2020) -- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander opened his 2020-21 NBA campaign in a big way. With 1.4 seconds remaining and the score tied at 107, Gilgeous-Alexander calmly sank a jumper to give the Oklahoma City Thunder a 109-107 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. Gilgeous-Alexander’s long two capped a wild fourth quarter that saw the Charlotte Hornets come back from double figures before ultimately falling to Gilgeous-Alexander’s Thunder.
The 22-year-old from Hamilton, Ont. contributed a lot more than just the game-winner for Oklahoma City. In 34 minutes of action, Gilgeous-Alexander flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 24 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and a blocked shot in the victory.
“I gave him a left-handed in and out,” Gilgeous-Alexander said after the game, as reported by Thunder beat writer Joe Mussatto. “I had been doing it all game, going left. So then I crossed over, went right, and [Hornets forward Cody Martin] was backing up so hard. And I figured if I stopped on a dime and pulled up, it’d be hard for him to get a good contest. That’s a shot that I practiced a lot.”
The Thunder were slated to open the season in Houston against the Rockets on Wednesday, but the game was postponed when the Rockets did not have the necessary number of players available as a result of multiple players not with the team due to health and safety protocols. When the NBA made the decision to postpone the game, Saturday’s contest became Oklahoma’s season opener.
After Miles Bridges hit three consecutive three-pointers for the Hornets to tie the game at 107 with 10.3 seconds remaining, the Thunder called timeout. Gilgeous-Alexander brought the ball up court, then calmly sank his jumper to put Oklahoma City ahead for good. Gilgeous-Alexander scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, including six in the final 31.4 seconds.
This is Gilgeous-Alexander’s third season in the league. Following his rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers -- after being selected 11th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft -- Gilgeous-Alexander was traded to the Thunder during the 2019 offseason. He averaged 19.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals in 70 games with the Thunder last season.
Fellow Canadian and Thunder teammate Lu Dort contributed 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a blocked shot in a team-high 35 minutes.