Thunder vs. Pistons takeaways: Jalen Williams lifts OKC past Detroit with last-second shot

Detroit Free Press

Thunder guard Jalen Williams has a lot of hair, and it was sopping wet after his teammates doused him with water after a game-winning tip-in.

The consequence of being the hero.

“It’s so wild already,” Williams said of his hair … “I’m not really gonna complain about the moment that happened to be able to get it wet.”

The Thunder, thanks to a jump ball won by Lu Dort and a Williams tip-in after a Josh Giddey miss, beat the Pistons 107-106 on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

Dort, Giddey and J-Dub combined for what might have been a play-in saving sequence, avoiding what would have been back-to-back brutal losses to the lowly Hornets and Pistons.

“Those are just blood-and-guts will plays that they made in that spot,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.

The Thunder found itself down by one after Cory Joseph drained a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. The tie-up under the Thunder’s basket came with seven seconds left.

The jump ball pitted Dort vs. Eugene Omoruyi, the former Thunder turned Piston.

Dort, sacrificing a few inches against Omoruyi, used his left hand to tip the jump to the right corner, where Giddey tracked it down. After the game, Dort said he had no clue why he used his left hand to win the tip, but hey, it worked.

Giddey, with two seconds left, spun into a baseline push-shot that rolled off the rim right toward Jalen Williams, who was unaccounted for on the offensive glass, thanks in part to Dort crashing and distracting Williams’ man.

Williams calmly put the ball up and in before chaos ensued.

Williams was mobbed at midcourt after time expired. Mobbed by his teammates, and a couple of over-eager fans who were sitting courtside.

“Throughout all that, some fan grabbed me,” Williams said, “and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, OK, I’m really close to the crowd.’

“It’s a moment that’s dope to be able to share that.”

Williams had the play of the night, but he made a lot of other plays leading up to it.

The rookie out of Santa Clara finished with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting. He had eight rebounds and six assists.

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, wearing a green zip-up and backwards St. Louis Cardinals cap, stood, gritted his teeth and power clapped after Lu Dort drained a clutch 3-pointer in the third quarter.

Dort’s shot comes and goes — and it’s been gone more often than not of late — but he hit the right shots at the right times against the Pistons.

Twice Dort made a 3-pointer in the third quarter to extend OKC’s lead from five to eight points.

Dort’s troubles finishing around the rim continued, but he had no trouble finishing a second-quarter dunk over Pistons big man Marvin Bagley III. Dort put Bagley on a poster.

Dort had 20 points, but none of his shots matched the importance of winning the jump ball.

“There’s an aura to him competitively that’s hard to put your finger on,” Daigneault said. “He’s not a perfect player, but he’s a ball of fire on both ends of the floor, and there’s something to that.

“He rises to competition. It’s just that simple. And it’s contagious … It helps our team stick its chest out, and you really can’t quantify that. He brings that to us. The end of the game is just a small example of that.”

More: Three years after March 11 NBA shutdown in OKC, where are key Thunder-Jazz figures now?

Jaylin Williams takes charge(s) 

Jaylin Williams, whose charge-taking habits know no bounds, drew three more charges Wednesday night, the last of which drew the all-important sixth foul against Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey.

“It’s something else,” Daigneault said. “He’s got great instincts.”

Detroit challenged the call, but there was no question about it.

Instead of Ivey shooting two free throws in a three-point game, it was the Thunder’s ball and Ivey was on the bench.

“I was just playing,” Jaylin Williams said of taking the third charge. “That’s something I do. The opportunity was there and it just worked out.”

Ivey is an electric rookie guard, but he’s all gas and no brakes.

His disqualification was a pivotal moment. He had 24 points and nine assists in 31 minutes.

Ivey shot 5-of-8 from 3-point range, part of Detroit’s 16-of-33 (49%) 3-point barrage.

The Thunder somehow withstood that in part by forcing Detroit into 17 turnovers, which led to a 30-9 Thunder edge in points off turnovers.

Daigneault liked the Thunder’s defensive effort despite Detroit’s hot shooting.

“I thought we stayed pretty steady throughout the night … that’s what we were hoping for tonight, was a better focus level, especially defensively,” Daigneault said. “I thought we had that despite a pretty good shooting night from them.”

More: Postseason-hungry Thunder ‘understand what’s at stake’ after narrow loss to Hornets

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed his second straight game due to a left ankle sprain, and while Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said SGA is “better every day,” it’s unclear when the Thunder’s star guard will return.

“With an ankle sprain, that’s stuff that with treatment and time and rest improves, and it has improved, and as soon as he clears the threshold of being able to play and play in a way where we don’t think we’re setting him back, he’ll be back,” Daigneault said.

The Thunder’s next game is Friday at Indiana. Consider Gilgeous-Alexander as questionable.

“It’s hard to know how he’s gonna respond,” Daigneault said.

Gilgeous-Alexander suffered the injury Sunday in Portland.

The Thunder is 6-7 when SGA sits.

More: Tramel: Will Thunder’s master plan prove costly in race for NBA play-in tournament?

– Former SuperSonics sharpshooter Rashard Lewis is on Detroit’s staff. Sam Presti, in his first year as GM, agreed to a sign-and-trade that sent Lewis to Orlando. Presti eventually drafted Serge Ibaka with the pick and trade exception OKC netted from Orlando.

– Rex Kalamian, who was a Thunder assistant from 2009-15, is in his second season as a Pistons assistant.

– Lindy Waters III (plantar fasciitis) missed his third straight game.

– Bojan Bogdanovic (left achilles), Alec Burks (left foot), Isaiah Stewart (left shoulder), Rodney McGruder (right foot) and Hamidou Diallo (right ankle) were out for the Pistons. Diallo spent parts of three seasons with the Thunder before he was traded to the Pistons.

– Former OSU standout Cade Cunningham (left tibia stress fracture) only played in 12 games before he was shut down for the season. The Pistons drafted Cunningham with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft. Cunningham was on the bench Wednesday.

– Former Thunder forward Eugene Omoruyi had a big-time game against his old squad. Omoruyi scored 14 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting. You could tell Omoruyi had fun playing against his former teammates, and vice versa. He was universally beloved in the Thunder locker room despite not spending a full season in OKC. Omoruyi played in 23 games for the Thunder before he was waived by OKC and picked up by Detroit.

– Omoruyi posed for a picture with several of his former teammates after the game: “There’s a great authenticity to him,” Daigneault said. “You never feel like he’s pretentious. He’s just who he is every single day and fully embraces it. He’s not a perfect person, he’s not a perfect player, but he’s perfect in his skin.”

– The Thunder outscored the Pistons 20-2 in fastbreak points.

– Dario Saric and Jared Butler did not play (coach’s decision)

– Isaiah Joe had 12 points despite shooting 0-of-7 from 3-point range.

– Daigneault, who doesn’t show much in-game emotion, was asked about the fun ending: “It’s a thrill,” Daigneault deadpanned. Then he cracked. “I’m just kidding.”

– The Thunder’s bench was outscored 49-23 by Detroit’s bench. No fault of Aaron Wiggins’, who was responsible for all but four of OKC’s bench points. He scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

– “He could’ve been a little sharper last night to be honest with you,” Daigneault said of Wiggins, “and I thought his response was really, really good, and we need that from just in terms of the toughness that he brings to the floor.”

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