PORTLAND, OREGON (AP) – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the depleted Portland Trail Blazers 118-112 yesterday.
Jalen Williams had 23 points and Isaiah Joe added 20 off the bench for Oklahoma City. It was a crucial win for the Thunder in the Western Conference play-in race. They improved to 37-38 and moved into a tie for ninth place with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shaedon Sharpe led the Trail Blazers with a career-high 29 points, and Nassir Little scored a season-best 28 off the bench. The loss was Portland’s eighth in 10 games, dropping the team to 32-42 this season. The Blazers are four games back of 10th place in the West and the final spot in the play-in tournament.
“It wasn’t a pretty game,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “It wasn’t our best game by any stretch. But given the circumstances, it required a level of resilience and toughness out of our team to win the game and I thought we had that.”
Portland was playing without four of its five regular starters as guards Damian Lillard (right calf) and Anfernee Simons (right foot), forward Jerami Grant (left calf) and center Jusuf Nurkic (right knee) sat out.
“I thought we played very well,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “Defensively and offensively, we were in tune. We got the ball moving around.”
The Blazers started off hot and built a 37-25 lead at the end of the first quarter, but squandered it with a 7-for-21 shooting performance in the second, allowing Oklahoma City to take a 68-62 lead into halftime.
The second half began in much the same way: Portland retook the lead with an 11-0 run powered by Sharpe and Little. That led to a back-and-forth third quarter before Oklahoma City pulled away midway through the fourth.
“I thought we gutted it out,” Daigneault said. “We did what we needed to do, especially down the stretch. Strung some plays together late. I thought our physicality the last four or five minutes of the game was really, really good.”
Thunder: Lindy Waters III was a late scratch due to a plantar fasciitis injury that flared up during pregame warmups.
Trail Blazers: Despite recent reports that Portland is shutting down its regular starters for the season, Billups said Lillard, Grant, Simons and Nurkic are day-to-day. “We’re just being cautious,” the coach said. F Trendon Watford sustained a right ankle injury in the first quarter and returned, but was later ruled out for the rest of the game.