Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 33 points guides the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 124-92 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans

Just a few days ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder seemed like a young team finding their way in their first playoff match. But on Wednesday night, they appeared like seasoned playoff pros.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points as the top-seeded Thunder defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 124-92, securing a 2-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

Gilgeous-Alexander mentioned that the Thunder stayed focused, not letting external factors like other top teams struggling at home affect them.

“I think it just goes back to us prioritizing winning,” he said. “And all those things are distractions that get in the way of winning. And every night, all 15 of us go to bed and want to win the next game, want to win the next day. And we do everything we can to do so.”

Chet Holmgren contributed 26 points and seven rebounds, while Jalen Williams added 21 points for the Thunder. They shot 59% from the field and made 14 of 29 3-pointers.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 19 points, with Herb Jones and Brandon Ingram adding 18 each for the Pelicans.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans

In Game 1, Valanciunas dominated the boards with 20 rebounds, including nine offensive ones, as the Pelicans outrebounded the Thunder 52-44. However, in Game 2, Oklahoma City outrebounded New Orleans 37-35 and limited the Pelicans to eight offensive rebounds.

The Pelicans continued to face difficulties on offense without their top scorer Zion Williamson, who was sidelined due to a strained left hamstring. Ingram, the second highest scorer for New Orleans during the regular season, struggled to get shots in Game 2 as Lu Dort from Oklahoma City persistently defended him. Ingram only managed to make 5 of 17 field goals in Game 1.

The Thunder capitalized on New Orleans’ turnovers, scoring 22 points off their 18 turnovers. Game 3 will take place on Saturday in New Orleans.

“Now, the challenge is to continue to grow and learn and improve with the series because the Pelicans are going to improve,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “They’re a good team that’s going home and they’re well coached. They’re going to get better. You know so we have to continue to get better.”

The pace of the game increased compared to Sunday’s match, which Oklahoma City narrowly won 94-92. The Thunder, who averaged 120.1 points in the regular season, found themselves more comfortable with this faster pace.

“In the first game, I thought both teams were kind of calibrating,” Daigneault said. “And, tonight, we had much quicker recognition of the way that they were guarding us, where we wanted to attack, and we got to those things pretty well.”

Valanciunas made a strong start with 11 points in the first three minutes, but Holmgren responded with 13 points in the first seven minutes.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans

Gilgeous-Alexander continued the momentum from Holmgren’s performance. He didn’t score in the first nine minutes, but then scored seven points in the final three minutes of the quarter, helping the Thunder to a 35-22 lead. Holmgren’s 15 points were the highest scored by a Thunder rookie in any quarter of a playoff game.

“I thought they turned up the pressure offensively,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “They got some early 3’s and that opened the floodgates up for them.”

At halftime, Oklahoma City was leading 63-50. Holmgren scored 20 points and Gilgeous-Alexander added 16 before the break.

The Thunder extended their lead to 92-74 by the end of the third quarter, and Gilgeous-Alexander and Holmgren were taken out of the game for good with the Thunder leading 120-86 in the fourth quarter.

“Tough one for us,” Green said. “Give them credit, they took care of the home court. It was a dominant win for them. So we’ll get home, we’ll regroup and get back after it.”


By Ritik

Ritik Katiyar is pursuing a post-graduate degree in Pharmaceutics. Currently, he lives in Srinagar, Uttarakhand, India. You can find him writing about all sorts of listicle topics. A pharmaceutical postgrad by day, and a content writer by night. You can write to him at [email protected]

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