For Canadian sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Hamilton, ON), his homecoming didn't go as planned as a rookie.
Last season, he finished with 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 26 minutes but the LA Clippers lost by 18 points at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
So, in his second year in the league, with a better opportunity to grow with a new team in the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 21-year-old took full advantage. In the first half alone, he outdid his performance from last season, scoring 20 points (on 8-11 shooting) in 19 minutes.
MORE: 8 thoughts from Thunder's one-point win over Raptors
In 40 minutes of action, he tied a career-high with 32 points (on 12-21 shooting), including what would ultimately be the game-winning bucket.
🥶 S- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 30, 2019
🥶 A@shaiglalex | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/hDbEWV9Osz
En route to scoring his career-high tally for a third time this season, he also finished with seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Postgame, he received plenty of praise from veteran teammate and backcourt mate Chris Paul
"He loves home"@shaiglalex's 32 was most ever scored by a Canadian vs the Raptors.- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 30, 2019
Comes as no surprise to @CP3 pic.twitter.com/OAZd0IpZAY
Gilgeous-Alexander's 32 points are the highest scored by a Canadian against the Raptors. Naturally, admiration for his game wasn't restricted to the Thunder locker room.
"He played like he was home tonight," Raptors' All-Star Kyle Lowry said. "He's been playing like that all year."
"He has a bright future - All-Star, superstar. His ceiling is really high," three-time NBA Champion and Raptors wing Patrick McCaw added. "Really enjoy watching him play and was fun playing against him."
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Even opposing head coach Nick Nurse, who will go coach Gilgeous-Alexander and Team Canada this upcoming summer during the 2020 Olympic Qualifiers, had some special words.
"He's playing very well. I'm not sure who has a quicker first step, blow-by move in the league right now than this guy. When he is [playing one-on-one] and he makes his little head-and-shoulder (move), boom, he's by ya."
With 55 games left in the season, it's safe to say that many more impressive performances are yet to come from the Thunder guard.
Of the three games this season that Gilgeous-Alexander has scored a career-best 32, he asserted that this one was without a doubt the most special.
"This one might be the best one so far, for sure," he said. "Back at the crib.… But all of it, honestly, wouldn't have meant anything if we didn't win, that was the best feeling, knowing that we came out of here with a win."
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