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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Chet Holmgren produces five steals, two rim-rocking dunks in Oklahoma City’s 86-80 win over Sacramento

July 13, 2022 Updated Wed., July 13, 2022 at 10:05 p.m.

Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder smiles on the court during a game against the Orlando Magic during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 11, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Getty Images)
Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder smiles on the court during a game against the Orlando Magic during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 11, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Keegan Murray caught the ball on the left corner, pump-faked, watched and waited for Chet Holmgren to soar past. Once the 7-footer’s willowy frame left the picture, Murray took one dribble, one step to his right and released a 3-pointer.

Holmgren got even on the next possession, accelerating past the Sacramento forward at top of the 3-point arc before splitting two more Kings as he forced his way into the paint. He picked up his dribble, took off from the floor and finished the play with a powerful two-handed dunk, no more than 15 feet from the baseline seats occupied by former MLB star Alex Rodriguez and Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

Murray, the No. 4 overall pick of the recent NBA draft, may have been the best solo act Wednesday night in Las Vegas , but Holmgren, the No. 2 pick, had his share of show-stopping moments as well, and the Gonzaga product helped Oklahoma City squeak out an 86-80 win over Sacramento at the Thomas & Mack Center.

In approximately 25 minutes, Holmgren scored eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, pulled down five rebounds and notched five steals while dishing out three assists with two turnovers and six fouls.

Murray, who matched up against Holmgren on both ends for most of the game, was the leading scorer with 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting and 9-of-11 from the free throw line. The former Iowa standout also registered seven rebounds, four steals and had three turnovers.

“I thought Chet did a good job on him in stretches in a role he hasn’t been in a lot during summer league,” Oklahoma City summer league coach Kameron Woods said. “I thought he did a good job. I thought Jaylin Williams did a good job. Keegan’s just such a special scorer, he’s going to find stuff within the flow of what they do.”

Holmgren didn’t make the defensive impact he’s accustomed to, lamenting his zero blocked shots – one iffy goaltend call on the former Zag could’ve gone the other way – but the rangy 7-footer was pleasantly surprised to hear he’d recorded five steals during a postgame media scrum, realizing his defensive impact was better than he’d imagined.

“I had five steals? Didn’t know that,” Holmgren said. “I had zero blocks. They took one of mine away that was definitely a block. Just trying to affect the game. You’re not going to go out and have 30 (points) every night so just trying to find different ways to help win.”

In the second half, Holmgren transformed one of those steals into another rim-rocking dunk, intercepting an inbound pass intended for Murray, slicing through the defense and finishing at the rim with two hands.

“I think that just speaks to his versatility again, guarding different guys, playing more on the perimeter,” Woods said. “He got to show off some of his perimeter defensive skills tonight playing off the ball, playing in passing lanes, playing in shell in different spots. He wasn’t always at the rim. So I thought he did a good job of doing that.

“There’s still a lot of room to grow for him and a lot of room to grow for all of our guys, but I thought him specifically, when he was out there guarding on the perimeter, was really good.”

Jalen Williams, the former Santa Clara wing who was picked up by Oklahoma City with the No. 12 overall selection, agreed Holmgren’s length will be an asset not only in terms of protecting the rim but also when it comes to disrupting passing lanes.

“Just having him on the back end to clean up, his length is kind of unprecedented in regards to being able to deflect passes and block shots,” Jalen Williams said. “It’s good to have him on the defensive end as well as the offensive end.”

Holmgren has primarily guarded opposing centers through the summer eague, but he slid into a power forward role Wednesday, marking Murray for the majority of his 25ish minutes while OKC teammate Jaylin Williams – the center on the Arkansas team that bounced Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 – took on the assignment of covering 7-foot, 245-pound Sacramento big man Neemias Queta.

“I feel good no matter what I’m asked to do, wherever I’m plugged into the sets or the defense, I’m going to try to execute,” Holmgren said.

The Thunder, now 2-1 in Las Vegas and 4-2 in six summer league games, are scheduled to play at 4 p.m. Friday (ESPN) against Golden State at the Thomas & Mack Center.

For precautionary reasons a number of top draft picks, including Orlando’s Paolo Banchero and Detroit’s Jaden Ivey, have been shut down for the remainder of the 11-day event. It’s still unclear if Holmgren will make a sixth summer league appearance after playing two games in Salt Lake City and three more in Vegas.

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