Thunder use second half surge to beat Pelicans, move on in NBA play-in tournament


The Oklahoma City Thunder used a second half push to take down the New Orleans Pelicans on the road in the NBA play-in tournament, 123-118. 

The Thunder will now move on to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday for the chance to secure the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference for the first round of the NBA playoffs. 

The game was going back and forth late in the fourth quarter, as both teams traded buckets to keep the game close. The Pelicans used an early fourth-quarter run, scoring seven straight points to pull within two, and it remained close to the end. 

Luguentz Dort #5 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots against Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at the Smoothie King Center on April 12, 2023, in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

However, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder’s biggest star, did what All-Stars do: Come in clutch. 

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Down by one, Gilgeous-Alexander took a transition pass after a CJ McCollum miss and made an awkward driving layup to go up one with 28.1 seconds left to play. 

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Brandon Ingram would miss the Pelicans’ next possession, which cracked the door open for OKC to put this one away. 

Josh Giddey and Lu Dort hit clutch free throws, but Ingram redeemed himself by hitting a three-pointer to bring the lead down to one. 

But it was Gilgeous-Alexander who iced it with more free throws to move on in the tournament. 

Gilgeous-Alexander had just seven points at the half, but he finished the game with 32 points to lead the Thunder in that category, going 11-for-22 from the field, including a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe with five rebounds and three assists. 

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) celebrates with forward Jaylin Williams (6) and guard Josh Giddey (3) during the first half of the team's NBA basketball play-in tournament game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 12, 2023. 

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) celebrates with forward Jaylin Williams (6) and guard Josh Giddey (3) during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball play-in tournament game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 12, 2023.  (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

But he wasn’t alone to pull off this win, of course. Giddey stepped up with 31 points, while hauling in nine rebounds and dishing out 10 assists as the 20-year-old was red-hot in his first taste of the postseason. 

Dort was a first-half machine as well, dropping 20 points, 14 of which came in the first quarter. He finished the game with 27 points, including four three-pointers. 

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For the Pelicans, Ingram was the leader with 30 points on 10-of-19 from the field. But McCollum had a letdown performance with only 5 of 15 shots made for 14 points. 

Jonas Valanciunas had the perfect matchup in the paint, as the Thunder don’t possess a true center on the roster right now. He had a double-double in the first half with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

But OKC was able to keep him at bay in the second half, at least on the points front. He finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives against Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at the Smoothie King Center on April 12, 2023, in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives against Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at the Smoothie King Center on April 12, 2023, in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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Trey Murphy III had 21 points for New Orleans, while Herbert Jones dropped 20 points as well. 



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