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Thunder beat Pelicans after losing 20-point lead


Jalen Williams Thunder beat Pelicans NBA

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) drives to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS — The Oklahoma City Thunder lost a 20-point, second-half lead, but not their composure.

Jalen Williams scored four of his 26 points in the last half-minute, and the Thunder rallied with a 12-0 run during the final 2:31 to escape with a 119-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night in the NBA.

“We don’t flinch,” said Thunder guard Josh Giddey, who scored 25 points. “You just got to be able to stay level-headed through a swing either way.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 24 points, including a tying 3 with 1:29 left, despite playing through a sore quadriceps that he said has been “a little banged up” since a victory over Utah last Wednesday.

“Most of it’s just trying not to think about it, and just play the game, read and react, and do everything you can to impact the game in a positive way,” Gilgeous-Alexander said before walking gingerly out of the arena.

Zion Williamson had 29 points and 10 assists, and CJ McCollum scored 23 points for the Pelicans, who trailed 88-68 before using a 20-2 run to get themselves — and the crowd — back into the game.

Trey Murphy III’s 28-foot 3 and McCollum’s driving floater gave New Orleans a 112-107 lead with 3:11 left. But the Pelicans did not score again, missing their final five shots.

“We were kind of stagnant and I definitely got to demand the ball more in those situations,” said Williamson, who did not have a shot in the final three minutes.

But Williamson stressed that he is gratified by the opportunity to have a central role in meaningful, late-season games for the first-time after injuries sidelined him for New Orleans’ past two postseason pushes.

“This is what being competitive is all about,” Williamson said. “These games are fun to play in. We didn’t get the result we wanted tonight, but games like this, when I watch playoff basketball, this is what games look like — just down the wire, teams make runs and whoever stays the most disciplined gets the win.

“So, I’m excited for this stretch,” he added.

Chet Holmgren had 16 points for the Thunder, who won for the fifth time in six games to pull half a game behind idle Denver for the top spot in the Western Conference.

“I don’t think we’ve really given up leads of that nature the way that we did tonight,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “But you have to be able to handle a lot of different situations in competition and I thought our guys just showed great toughness and poise in a pretty hostile environment against a very sharp opponent that had a lot of momentum.”

Murphy and Herb Jones each scored 16 for New Orleans, which lost for just the second time in eight games and fell out of fourth place in the West.

The Thunder “executed better than us the last 2 1/2 minutes of the game,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Our guys battled. They know that sense of urgency has to be there from the start.”

The Thunder shot 62.2% (28 of 45) overall and 50% (10 of 20) from long distance in the first half, when it opened up a 15-point lead.



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Williams had 18 of his points in the opening half, and his third 3 of the game gave the Thunder a 71-56 lead. Gilgeous-Alexander’s 15-foot turnaround in the final seconds of the second quarter gave Oklahoma City a 73-58 halftime lead.

NEXT SCHEDULE

Thunder: Host Houston on Wednesday night in the first of two straight at home.

Pelicans: Host Milwaukee on Thursday night in the second of a six-game homestand.





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