Photo Credits: Zach Beeker
The Thunder’s 19-year-old forward Aleksej Pokusevski, had a career night vs. the Lakers on Wednesday, snagging his first career double-digit outing snagging 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and three blocks in just 21 minutes of run.
Pokusevski was one of the Thunder’s few bright spots in their 128-99 loss, but it was nothing short of a polarizing game for the rookie. His performance kicked off with banging home a wide-open right corner three ball, and following it up by jamming home an uncontested putback dunk not even a minute later.
That offensive spurt was no fortuity, as he charged right back in the fourth quarter nailing a contested three ball over former Thunder forward Markieff Morris. For Poku, jacking up contested shots has not been a tendency of his, in fact he’s more apt to pass on an open layup than pull the trigger in someone’s face. That he did, and it paid big divdends.
His most thunderous play of the night came off a beautiful steal by forward Kenrich Williams to author a two-on-one fastbreak with Poku and Talen Horton-Tucker for the Lakers. What ensued was a cross court pass from Williams to Poku when they met at opposite wings. Poku took just two strides forward before skiing up for the monster jam. Horton-Tucker almost found himself in a bodybag and made his best defensive play of the night getting himself out of the Serbian Assassins path. The rookie spread his wings as and took flight with his Stretch Armstong-esce dunk, extending every part of his body for extra hangtime.
Pokusevski created some sparks on the offensive end, however; his defensive dexterity lit the flame under him in the course of Wednesday night. The rookie’s three blocks were good for a team-high, as well as his career best to this point. A primary issue thus far has been staying plumb when going to reject shots, there was zero problems on Wednesday.
His three rejections all came in the final period of the game, with all his rejections coming from inside on Lakers drives. None could top that of his chasedown block on guard Quinn Cook in which he emerged from the other side of the floor to get the rejection.
Pokusevski downplayed his ineptness on the defensive end saying, “That’s my job. Just keep playing defense. Blocks are just coming because I’m a big guy trying to use my tools.”
Other members of the team had nothing but praise for the rookie, such as Kenrich Williams who commented after the game, “Poke does a great job…he’s long he’s able to get those blocks. He’s doing a lot better. The futures gonna be bright for Poke.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also paid his respects to the 19-year-old, “As young as Poku is, he knows how to play, on both ends on the floor. He knows what he is doing. He’s getting better everyday.”
Pokusevski will have a shot to boost his production and play when the Thunder (5-6) go toe-to-toe with the Chicago Bulls (4-7) on Friday.