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OKC Thunder Shock New Orleans Pelicans 123-118, Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey Combine for 63 Points



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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 25 of his 32 points after halftime, including a go-ahead baseline jumper and four clutch free throws in the final 29 seconds, and Oklahoma City beat the Pelicans 123-118 on Wednesday night to remain alive in the Western Conference play-in tournament.

“To start the game, I wasn’t expecting a huge outburst offensively. I wanted to kind of set the table to make sure my teammates were ready to go, confident and attacking. And I knew once I did that, the defense would have to worry about them as well and my offensive game would open up,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.

The Thunder superstar’s flashy performance included spinning dribble drives, multiple mid-range jumpers, and a three-pointer as he once again shot 50% from the floor, 11-of-22, to match his regular season average.

Josh Giddey added 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City, the only Western Conference team still playing with a losing record in the NBA’s play-in tournament.

“We did a great job of not getting rattled,” Giddey said. “Nothing ever phased us. It’s such a young group, but it’s such a composed team and that’s how you have to be down the stretch of tight games like that.”

Lu Dort scored 27 for the Thunder, while converting four three-pointers and finishing with two free throws in the final seconds.

The loss eliminated the ninth-seed Pelicans from playoff contention, while 10th seed Oklahoma City advanced and will now matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night for a chance to enter the NBA playoffs as an eighth seed and face off against the top-seed Denver Nuggets and superstar Nikola Jokic.

Brandon Ingram scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, including a three-pointer within the closing seconds of the game to give the Pelicans a slim chance to come back.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would have none of that though, he would connect on two free throws to put the Thunder up by three and ultimately sealed the Oklahoma City victory.

Jonas Valanciunas recorded 16 points and 18 rebounds for New Orleans, but checked out with just over four minutes left in regulation after sustaining an injury to his right foot. He would return in the final minute.

Trey Murphy III scored 21 points, Herbert Jones had 20 and CJ McCollum added 14 for the Pelicans. A New Orleans team that went 2-0 during play-in games and advanced to the first round of the playoffs just last season.

This time around, New Orleans, was at the top of the Western Conference standings in December, they left the court on Wednesday night wondering what might have been had All-Star forward Zion Williamson not strained his hamstring at the beginning of January. That injury had ultimately sidelined the Pelicans biggest star the rest of the season.

“It’s important to have your guys on the floor, it helps your team reach its potential. We didn’t do that this season,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 17 points in the third quarter and Giddey would contribute 12 of his own, including his third three-pointer of the game to give Oklahoma City a 95-85 lead.

New Orleans would regain the lead when Josh Richardson’s steal and fast break slam made it 101-100 in the fourth quarter.

Although, when the Thunder were coming back up the court late in the fourth, Richardson knocked Josh Giddey down to the floor near mid-court. A disgruntled Giddey would rise back to his feet and walk over toward Richardson and his teammates and they would hold both players away from each other; while the referees called for a video review and ultimately decided that Richardson did indeed commit a flagrant foul.

Giddey would connect on one of those two free throws to tie it again and set the stage for an intense finish by the Thunder.



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