Chet Holmgren makes five interceptions, two rocking dunks in Oklahoma City’s 86-80 win over Sacramento

July 14 – LAS VEGAS – Keegan Murray grabbed the ball in the left corner, rigged the pump, watched and waited for Chet Holmgren to pass. Once the 7-footer’s slender frame left the picture, Murray dribbled, stepped to his right and kicked a 3-pointer.

Holmgren even secured the next possession, accelerating past the Sacramento forward atop the 3-point arc before splitting two more Kings as he pushed his way into the paint. He picked up his dribble, lifted off the ground and finished the game with a powerful two-handed dunk, less than 15 feet from the base seats occupied by former MLB star Alex Rodriguez and the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve Ballmer.

Murray, the No. 4 overall pick in the recent NBA Draft, may have been the best solo act Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but Holmgren, the No. 2 pick, also had his share of standout moments, and the Gonzaga helped Oklahoma City to an 86-80 victory over Sacramento at the Thomas & Mack Center.

In about 25 minutes, Holmgren scored eight points on 3-for-8 shooting, put down five rebounds and grabbed five steals while delivering three assists with two turnovers and six fouls.

Murray, who faced Holmgren at 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 star also had seven rebounds, four steals and three turnovers.

“I think Chet has done a good job on him at times in a role he hasn’t played much in summer league,” Oklahoma City’s summer league coach said, Cameron Woods. “I think he did a good job. I think Jaylin Williams did a good job. Keegan is such a special goalscorer, he’s going to find stuff in the flow of what they’re doing.

Holmgren didn’t have the defensive impact he’s used to, lamenting his zero blocked shots – a questionable goalkeeper call on the former Zag could have gone the other way – but the long 7ft was pleasantly surprised to learn he had recorded five steals in a post-match media scrum, realizing his defensive impact was better than he had imagined.

“I had five flights? I didn’t know that,” Holmgren said. “I had no block. They took away one of mine which was definitely a block. I’m just trying to affect the game. You’re not going to go out and get 30 (points) every night, so just try to find different ways to help win.

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

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

“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 in particular, when he was there guarding the perimeter, was really good.”

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

“Just having him in the back to clean up, his length is kind of unprecedented in terms of his ability to deflect passes and block shots,” Jalen Williams said. “It’s good to have him both defensively and offensively.”

Holmgren has primarily guarded opposing centers throughout the summer league, but he slipped into a power forward role on Wednesday, scoring Murray for the majority of his 25 minutes while OKC teammate Jaylin Williams — the center for the Arkansas team that bounced Gonzaga into the Sweet 16 — took on the mission of covering Neemias Queta, the 7-foot, 245-pound big man from Sacramento.

“I feel good, no matter what I’m asked to do, wherever I’m plugged into sets or 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, is 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 closed for the remainder of the 11-day event. It remains 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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