Gilgeous-Alexander has 37 and Thunder hold off Blazers 128-120

The Associated Press - March 7, 2024 9:38 am

By ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 37 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off a late rally by the Portland Trail Blazers for a 128-120 victory on Wednesday night.

Jalen Williams added 31 points and Chet Holmgren finished with 21 points and a season-high 14 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which led by 18 points.

Anfernee Simons had 29 for the short-handed Blazers, who have won just 17 games and have been beset by injuries.

“You don’t play a team’s record. You just play the team,” Williams said. “That’s a well-coached team, a lot of players playing for spots and minutes. And those are probably some of the most dangerous teams.”

Portland (17-44) closed the gap to 112-107 on Simons’ layup before Matisse Thybulle’s 3-pointer got the Blazers within two with 4:05 left.

Williams ended the threat with a 3-pointer that made it 116-110.

“Give them a lot of credit, I thought they really fought tonight — which they’ve been doing lately, they’ve got the fifth-best defense in the league in the last 10 games and their competitiveness and physicality definitely showed tonight,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “It was a good test for us.”

Portland saw the return of Jerami Grant (right quad) and Thybulle (left hip), who both missed Portland’s 119-114 loss at Minnesota on Monday. Center Deandre Ayton (sprained right wrist) and Toumani Camara (illness) were ruled out before the game.

Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said rookie Scoot Henderson was making progress after a left foot sprain and could return by the weekend.

“I just thought we came out and we played this team really well, for the second time. No matter who plays, we play the right way. We’re going to play right. And that’s what I want to happen. Just play right, play together. And we just rely on each other the whole time,” Billups said.

The Thunder were coming off a 116-104 loss on Monday night to the Los Angeles Lakers, just their second loss in nine games. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 points in that game — ending his streak of eight consecutive 30-point games.

With the win, Oklahoma City (43-19) moved into a tie with Minnesota for the top spot in the Western Conference standings.

The Thunder built a 51-35 first-half lead after Jalen Williams’ layup, but Portland pulled to 65-57 at halftime. Gilgeous-Alexander and Holmgren shared the lead with 16 points apiece in the half.

There was a scary moment in the second quarter when Oklahoma City’s Bismack Biyombo appeared to collapse on the bench.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Biyombo was injured. The 13-year NBA veteran fell as the team went to the sideline during a timeout. He was helped off the court and into the locker room.

The Thunder said that it was not a serious medical condition although Biyombo did not return.

“He’s fine. He just fainted, basically,” Daigneault said. “He was in the locker room at halftime laughing and joking.”

Simons hit a 3-pointer before Grant’s floater got the Blazers within 88-86 late in the third quarter, but the Thunder answered with a 10-0 run to take a 97-87 lead into the final period.

It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. The Thunder won all four.

The Thunder’s game at Portland was the last of a four-game road trip.

UP NEXT

The Thunder host the Miami Heat on Friday night.

 

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