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New Orleans — Shay Gilgos Alexander highlighted his 32-point night with a jumping base green and four free throws in the last 29 seconds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118 Wednesday night to stay alive in the West. Conference play tournament.
Josh Geddy had 31 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City, the only Western Conference team still playing with a losing record.
“We’ve been put to the test of battle. We’ve played a lot of close matches all year, over the past two years,” Gilgos Alexander said. “Even when the season wasn’t going our way, we played in a lot of close matches and we have good habits and we know what works for that.”
The loss eliminated the ninth seed Pelicans, while 10th seed Oklahoma City advanced to play Minnesota on Friday night for the right to enter the NBA playoffs as the eighth seed and meet 1st seed Denver.
Brandon Ingram scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds remaining to give the Pelicans little chance of a comeback.
But after Gilgos Alexander hit two free throws, Herbert Jones threw an inbound pass, nearly sealing New Orleans’ fate.
Lou Dort scored 27 for the Thunder, including a pair of free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining.
Jonas Valancionas had 16 points and 18 rebounds for New Orleans, but missed 4:26 after apparently injuring his right foot. He only came back briefly at the last minute.
Trey Murphy III scored 21 points, Jones 20 and CJ McCollum 14 for the Pelicans, who went preseason 2-0 in playoffs as the ninth seed to advance to the first round of the playoffs.
This time, New Orleans, who were leading the Western Conference standings in December, are left wondering what they might have been if Zion Williamson hadn’t been out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury on January 2.
New Orleans led 69-62 early in the third quarter before the Thunder surged ahead with a 13-2 lead capped off by a Gilgos Alexander layup where he was fouled.
Gilgos Alexander scored 17 goals in this period and Gede added 12, including his third of his 3-goal of the game to give Oklahoma City a 95-85 lead.
But New Orleans quickly increased the game early in the fourth with a score of 7-0 that included 3 backup guard Josh Richardson, bringing the Pelicans up to 98-96.
The Pelicans got back in front when Richardson made a steal and a breakaway made it 101-100, but when the Thunder returned to the court, Richardson was called for a foul after hitting Jedi to the ground near middlecourt. An angry Jedi rose to his feet and started towards Richardson. His teammates were taken into custody while the officials called a video review and determined Richardson had made a flagrant error.
Jedi made one of two free throws to tie it up and set the stage for an intense finish.
Dort, who averaged 13.7 points during the regular season, scored 14 points in the first quarter. But the Pelicans pulled ahead late in the first period when Murphy hit with a pair of 3s to help New Orleans enter halftime with a 63-57 lead.
Ingram appeared to rotate his left ankle when he stepped on his foot late in the second quarter. However, he did not make it out of the match, playing most of the second half.
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