Many people have said that the Clippers really took a loss a few years ago when they traded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) to the Thunder. SGA has since grown to become one of the most threatening offensive players in the league. Not only did he make the All-NBA First Team last year, but his defense has also improved significantly, currently leading the league in steals. SGA represents not just the future, but the present and future of NBA superstardom.
However, after watching today’s Thunder vs. Clippers game, some might reconsider. The Clippers, led by their three superstars Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden, took turns guarding SGA. The game was intense until the fourth quarter. The Clippers, leading by 10 points after three quarters, faced a strong comeback from the Thunder, especially from Jalen Williams (one of the three Williams on the Thunder, and one of two J.Williams – don’t get them mixed up). This player is limitless. If SGA is the Jordan of the Thunder, then this player might just be his Scottie Pippen. He consistently scored in the fourth quarter, helping the Thunder not only catch up but also stay on the Clippers’ heels.
Finally, with a three-pointer from Jalen Williams, the Thunder took the lead for the first time in a while at 115-114, with only 3 minutes and 37 seconds left in the game. Things were looking grim for the Clippers.
But the Clippers’ starting lineup has three seasoned superstars. They didn’t need all three to shine at once; even just one or two would suffice. Today, it was Paul George who stepped up, although the other two also contributed significantly in the end. PG scored in the paint after receiving a clever alley-oop from Harden, drawing a foul for a three-point play, quickly regaining the lead for the Clippers. Then, SGA, one of the best penetrators in the league, got the ball. Kawhi stepped up to defend one of the league’s top offensive weapons.
The moment SGA got the ball, he saw Kawhi hadn’t fully positioned himself and quickly moved past him into the paint. Just as he was about to score, a large hand reached out from behind – it was Kawhi. It seemed Kawhi intentionally let SGA get ahead by half a step so he could block the shot from behind. Kawhi nailed it, pinning the ball against the backboard in a massive block, regaining possession in the ensuing chaos. He then drew a foul from the Thunder and scored a free throw.
The game shifted back to Paul George, who shook off Dort in a one-on-one and sunk a three-pointer, turning the crowd wild. The score went from a one-point deficit to a six-point lead. After Jalen Williams scored again for the Thunder, it was James Harden’s turn. Guarded by SGA, Harden cleverly used a behind-the-back dribble to lose his defender and score with his signature drive and floater. Though Harden only scored 16 points, with multiple superstars on the court, not everyone needed to push to their limits.
PG then hit another three, extending the lead to nine points. As SGA tried to go one-on-one against Harden, PG appeared like a ghost, stealing the ball from SGA and launching a fast break. Even though the Thunder players had caught up, PG was determined to finish it himself, reminiscent of his days with the Pacers a decade ago. He skillfully maneuvered to the other side of the rim and finished with a one-handed reverse dunk. The crowd went wild.
“I think that trade was a win-win,” said PG when asked about the Clippers trading the valuable and fully realized potential of SGA to get him. Whether the Clippers have won is yet to be determined. They are still waiting for several stars to prove themselves, but this year, they indeed seem to have a good chance. It’s something to look forward to.