NBA playoffs

Thunder hold on for Game 1 victory over Pelicans


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Thunder hold on for Game 1 victory over Pelicans

WIN. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) reacts to forward Chet Holmgren (7) blocking a shot by a New Orleans Pelicans player during the second quarter of game one of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center.

Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sinks a pair of key baskets in the final two minutes as the Thunder win their first playoff game since 2020

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points to lift the host Oklahoma City Thunder to a thrilling 94-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Sunday, April 21 (Monday, April 22, Manila time).

In the Thunder’s first playoff game since 2020, Gilgeous-Alexander made a pair of key baskets in the final two minutes to give Oklahoma City the series lead.

In the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City experienced a stretch of five-plus minutes without a field goal as the Pelicans went up 90-88.

But then Gilgeous-Alexander turned things around.

First, he hit a pull-up jumper to tie the game with 1:36 remaining, then fought through traffic – and a foul – to hit a floater, sinking the ensuing free throw to give the Thunder a 93-90 edge with 32.5 seconds to play.

However, the Pelicans weren’t done.

CJ McCollum hit a turnaround fadeaway with 26.5 seconds remaining to pull New Orleans within a point, and Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren missed 1 of 2 free throws to keep the Thunder’s lead at two.

With 14 seconds left, the Pelicans had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, but Cason Wallace locked in defensively on McCollum, first reaching out for a deflection, then keeping him from getting a clean look. McCollum’s potential game-winner missed the mark with 1.3 seconds to go.

“I thought we showed great grit down the stretch,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said.

Playing without forward Zion Williamson, who sustained a left hamstring strain in a play-in loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pelicans fought hard throughout.

They fell behind by 9 just before the midpoint of the third quarter before a 16-6 run put them back in front. Trey Murphy III scored 7 points during the stretch, which put the Pelicans ahead 66-65 with 1:57 left in the period.

Oklahoma City quickly rebounded, finishing the quarter on a 9-2 run.

The Thunder stretched the lead to 10, their largest advantage of the game, early in the fourth quarter, but New Orleans bounced back.

Jalen Williams added 19 points for Oklahoma City, while Holmgren had 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Both players were making their postseason debuts.

Oklahoma City had not won a game scoring fewer than 102 points this season.

“Our guys fought, fought all night, defense was solid,” said New Orleans coach Willie Green, whose team held the Thunder to 43.5% shooting from the field and 31.2% shooting from deep. “We’ve got to knock down some shots.”

Murphy led the Pelicans with 21 points, McCollum added 20, and Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and 20 rebounds. –

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