Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander lead Thunder past Pistons 108-101

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Nothing changed for the Oklahoma City Thunder before the trade deadline.

As a result, nothing appears to have changed after — in their first game since, they won again with balanced scoring and solid defence.

Chris Paul scored 22 points and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 21 to help the Thunder beat the Detroit Pistons 108-101 yesterday.

Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points, Dennis Schroder 18 and Steven Adams 16 for Oklahoma City, which has won nine of 10.

Most of the hype before the deadline involved Gallinari, the team’s second top scorer. Paul was happy that the Thunder were able to keep their team together.

“It’s always uncertainty because it’s a whole ordeal now with the deadline,” he said. “It shows. It’s a frenzy. It’s good to know that we’re going to keep playing together.”

Oklahoma City is now 12 games above .500.

Oklahoma City Thunder centre Steven Adams reaches for a pass in front of Detroit Pistons forward Thon Maker. PHOTO: AP

“It’s us,” Paul said. “Once the deadline passes, I don’t care what they said — this, that was going to happen. We’re going to make a run at this thing, and we’ve got our group.”

Former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson scored a season-high 28 points for Detroit. Christian Wood scored 27 points and Thon Maker added a season-high 19 for the Pistons.

It was Detroit’s first game since trading Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Drummond is a two-time All-Star who leads the league with 15.8 rebounds per game.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey said before the game that the move was strictly business.

“Andre is a fabulous basketball player in our league,” he said. “Everybody makes a big thing about big guys. Still big guys — as long as that basket’s 10 feet, big guys are still going to be important.”

Detroit’s leading scorer, Derrick Rose, sat out with a strained left hip. With the trade and injuries, Casey had just nine available players.

Oklahoma City shot 54.3 per cent in the first half to lead 52-47 at the break.

Late in the third quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander got the roll on a pull-up jumper and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but got the rebound and made a layup to put the Thunder ahead 74-63.

The Thunder led 78-68 at the end of the third quarter, then Jackson scored seven points in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 85-78.

Detroit cut its deficit to four in the closing minutes, but Paul made two free throws and a jumper to give the Thunder a 103-95 lead with 1:31 to play, creating enough of a cushion for Oklahoma City to hold on.

Casey said part of the problem late was that he utilised so many young players.

“I thought we didn’t do a great job of executing down the stretch,” Casey said. “Some of that — a lot of guys hadn’t been in those situations. But again, the effort and the intensity, I thought was there for the most part of the game.”