Thunder edge Pelicans in thriller

Agence France-Presse
Thunder edge Pelicans in thriller
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder brings the ball up court against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at the Paycom Center on April 21, 2024 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Cooper Neill / Getty Images / AFP

WASHINGTON – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drained a go-ahead basket with 32.5 seconds left on Sunday (Monday Manila time) as Western Conference top seeds Oklahoma City clawed out a 94-92 victory over New Orleans in their NBA playoff opener.

Hours after he was named a finalist for NBA Most valuable Player along with Denver star Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points to lead the Thunder.

The Pelicans were missing star Zion Williamson because of a hamstring strain but they refused to buckle at Oklahoma's Paycom Center.

A pulsating contest featured 20 lead changes and was a marked contrast to the wins posted earlier by the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, who all roared out of the gates on the way to dominant victories.

The Celtics, fueled by Jayson Tatum's first career playoff triple-double, parlayed a 14-0 start to a 114-94 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Clippers shrugged off the absence of Kawhi Leonard, bullying the Mavs early on the way to a 109-97 victory over the Mavericks — who put up just eight points in the second quarter.

In Milwaukee, Damian Lillard scored all 35 of his points in the first half as the Bucks built a 69-42 halftime lead and held on to beat the Indiana Pacers 109-94 despite the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The first half in Oklahoma City saw a dozen lead changes and ended deadlocked at 43-43.

An 11-0 scoring run gave the Thunder a nine-point lead midway through the third period, but the Pelicans countered every punch they threw and were up by two after Brandon Ingram's layup with 3:34 left to play.

Gilgeous-Alexander tied it with 1:36 remaining and was fouled on his go-ahead basket, making the free-throw for a 93-90 Thunder lead.

Trey Murphy III scored 21 points to lead the Pelicans and CJ McCollum added 20 but missed a three-point attempt in the waning seconds.

"We didn't execute down the stretch the way we wanted to. We let them believe, but we did enough to get the 'W,'" the 25-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander said.

"One game closer to our goal."

Jalen Williams scored 19 points and Chet Holmgren had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Thunder, who host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

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