Thunder takes 1-0 lead vs. Pelicans

Thunder takes 1-0 lead vs. Pelicans
Basketball (File Photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Hours after the NBA announced Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was selected as a finalist for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Oklahoma City’s All-Star guard showed why.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points, including the go-ahead basket in the final minute, and the top-seeded Thunder edged the New Orleans Pelicans 94-92 in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series Sunday night.

New Orleans’ CJ McCollum missed a leaning 3-pointer in the closing seconds and the Thunder held on to win their first home playoff game since 2019.

“I thought we showed great grit down the stretch,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “Obviously, that was a tight game. It was a bit of a brawl for both teams offensively. And we made plays defensively down the stretch — big time plays — and had the resolve to go in and win the game.”

Jalen Williams scored 19 points and Chet Holmgren added 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks for the Thunder, who will host Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Trey Murphy III scored 21 points, McCollum had 20 and Jonas Valanciunas added 13 points and 20 rebounds for the Pelicans. Zion Williamson, New Orleans’ leading scorer in the regular season, sat out with a strained left hamstring.

“I set a screen on the ball,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “And they switched on Dub (Williams). And then I just caught the ball at the elbow and just tried to be aggressive and make a play that I’ve made before.”

McCollum’s mid-range jumper made it 93-92.

Holmgren was fouled with 14 seconds left. He missed the first free throw and made the second to put the Thunder ahead 94-92 and set up McCollum’s final shot. Thunder rookie Cason Wallace forced him to scramble and take a difficult shot. / AP


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