Gilgeous-Alexander leads Thunder past Pelicans in play-in

April 13, 2023  -NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander exercised patience during his lowest-scoring first half all season, routinely deferring to teammates such as Lu Dort and Josh Giddey in an effort to keep New Orleans defenders off balance in a winner-take-all postseason game.

“To start the game, I wasn’t expecting a huge outburst offensively,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “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.” And how.

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.

The Thunder All-Star’s repertoire included spinning dribble drives, varying mid-range jumpers, and a 3-pointer as he once again shot 50% (11 of 22) to match his season average.

Giddey had 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City (41-42), the only Western Conference team still playing with a losing record.

“We did a great job of not getting rattled” after Brandon Ingram’s putback dunk gave the Pelicans a 110-108 lead, 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.”

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