Oklahoma City Thunder Defeat Phoenix Suns 124-120 Behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 40 Points
The Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Phoenix Suns on Sunday as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit two critical free throws with 10 seconds left. His performance earned him M-V-P chants from the crowd at Paycom Center.
The All-Star scored 40 points in Oklahoma City's 124-120 victory. With their fourth win in five games, the Thunder are now very much in contention for a play-in spot. This would be a welcome return to the postseason after a two-year absence. Both players and fans share the sense of urgency as the Thunder aim to make their mark.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, with a season-high 36 points. At the Chesapeake Energy Arena, it felt like a home court advantage for the Thunder, with the crowd roaring in the background.
Gilgeous-Alexander made 12 of 24 field goals and 16 of 19 free throws. He was 11 of 11 from the foul line alone in the second half, after not shooting any in the second quarter.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault commended Gilgeous-Alexander's mentality in the second half, "I just thought he didn't have his normal jugular-type mentality on his drives (in the second quarter), and he got back to that in the second half and really put pressure on them. That gets the fouls going."
Gilgeous-Alexander himself echoed the sentiment, saying "We had a home-court advantage for sure. They were energetic. They were their usual selves. It was a big game tonight, and it felt like it."
Luguentz Dort made a big difference for the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 20 points to help them fight back from a 15-point deficit and steal a victory against the Phoenix Suns. Head coach Mark Daigneault noted that the team’s success was grounded in their ability to stay in the game and not give up. Devin Booker had a game high of 46 points, while Chris Paul ended the night with 14 points and 13 assists for Phoenix.
Phoenix held a 69-57 advantage at the half, with Devin Booker's 16 points leading the way, as the Suns shot 52.2% from the field before the break. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander countered with 21 points in the first half to keep the Thunder in it.
In the closing seconds of the third, Gilgeous-Alexander stole the ball and converted a layup with a foul on him with only 0.4 seconds remaining. He made the free throw to bring the score to 96-90 after the period.
Commenting on the play, Phoenix coach Monty Williams said: “The difficult turnover in the dying moments of the third period, where it ended in an and-one opportunity, really changed the momentum of the game.”
The Phoenix Suns were up 100-90 before the Oklahoma City Thunder's impressive 18-2 run tied the game at 100. Aaron Wiggins' layup with a little over seven minutes remaining gave the Thunder the edge, and Dort's 3-pointer 40 seconds later put OKC up by one. The Thunder then widened the gap to six points before Phoenix called a timeout. Despite a late surge from the Suns, Oklahoma City held on to the win in the final minute.
Head coach Monty Williams praised the Thunder's ability to maintain their performance over a long period of time, saying it has been their hallmark in the last few years. He highlighted their mentality, which is to keep going no matter the score, and that they play "48 minutes plus" with an intensity and determination not often seen in the NBA.
Suns forward Kevin Durant missed his second straight game due to a sprained left ankle, while center Deandre Ayton sat out of the contest with a bruised right hip. Center Bismack Biyombo was hit with a technical foul in the first quarter.
For the Thunder, center Dario Saric, who had been traded from the Suns earlier this season, scored four points in the game. Suns forward Darius Bazley, who was a part of the Saric deal, had three points off the bench in seven minutes and was greeted with cheers when he entered the game in the second quarter. Thunder guard Josh Giddey was given a technical in the second quarter as well.