Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Leads Thunder Over Pelicans In Game 1

Brandon Ingram, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander demonstrated his NBA MVP-caliber talent in a thrilling playoff opener, scoring 28 points, including a pivotal go-ahead basket in the final moments, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a narrow 94-92 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night.

Just hours after being named a finalist for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, Gilgeous-Alexander’s performance highlighted a fiercely contested game that marked the Thunder’s first home playoff victory since 2019. The Thunder’s coach, Mark Daigneault, praised the team’s resilience, noting their strong defensive plays in crucial moments.

“I thought we showed great grit down the stretch,” Daigneault said. “Obviously, that was a tight game. It was a bit of a brawl for both teams offensively. And we made plays defensively down the stretch — big time plays — and had the resolve to go in and win the game.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans Updates

Supporting Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams added 19 points, while rookie Chet Holmgren contributed a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, also blocking five shots. The Thunder are set to host Game 2 on Wednesday.

The Pelicans, missing their top scorer Zion Williamson due to injury, saw Trey Murphy III leading their scoring with 21 points, followed closely by CJ McCollum with 20 points. Jonas Valanciunas had a significant impact with 13 points and 20 rebounds.

The game’s climax came when Gilgeous-Alexander hit a difficult jumper and completed a three-point play, putting the Thunder ahead 93-90 amidst chants of “M-V-P” from the home crowd.

“I set a screen on the ball,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “And they switched on Dub (Williams). And then I just caught the ball at the elbow and just tried to be aggressive and make a play that I’ve made before.”

McCollum answered with a jumper, but after Holmgren split a pair of free throws, McCollum missed a crucial three-pointer under pressure from Thunder rookie Cason Wallace.

“I got the switch,” McCollum said. “I should have attacked a little earlier, a little faster. But credit, it was good defense. … I thought it was cash and I missed it long.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans Updates

The atmosphere in the arena was electric, with fans energetically supporting their team. Gilgeous-Alexander acknowledged the crowd’s impact, describing the environment as “perfect.”

“It was amazing,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “They were exactly what I expected. … They were perfect.”

The game remained tightly contested throughout, with the score tied at both the end of the first quarter and halftime.

Oklahoma City pulled ahead with an 11-0 run in the third quarter, although New Orleans managed to briefly regain the lead. The Thunder finished the third quarter strong, setting the stage for the tense final minutes.

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans Updates

Pelicans coach Willie Green commended his team’s effort and execution, especially on defense, acknowledging that missed opportunities and shots ultimately determined the game’s outcome. He emphasized the physical nature of playoff basketball, suggesting that the intensity seen in this game would set the tone for the rest of the series.

“We had quality shots coming down the stretch that we just didn’t make, and it came down to the final play,” Green said. “Our guys fought all night. Defense was solid. Game plan was executed at a high level. We’ve got to knock down some shots.”

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