PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)Shai Gilgeous-Alexander matched his career high with 44 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 138-129 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Gilgeous-Alexander was 13 of 16 from the floor and hit 18 of 19 free-throw attempts. He is the first player in Thunder history to score 40-plus points on 80% shooting. He also had seven assists.
”Shot a lot of free throws tonight for sure. That helps,” he said. ”I just played in my comfort zone tonight. I tried to put pressure on the defense a lot.”
Josh Giddey added 19 points for the Thunder, who had lost three of their previous five games.
Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 38 points, and Jerami Grant added 23.
It was back-and-forth for much of the game, but Portland went up 112-103 in the fourth quarter on Anfernee Simons’ 3-pointer.
But the Thunder took over, boosted by a 16-2 run.
Oklahoma City closed within 112-111 on Isaiah Joe’s 3-pointer and then went ahead on Giddey’s jumper with 7:31 left. Lillard answered with a basket that gave Portland back a slim lead.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s dunk gave Oklahoma City a 119-114 lead with 5:22 to go. Lu Dort’s 3-pointer made it 129-121 with 2:45 left to all but seal it for the Thunder. Dort finished with 18 points off the bench.
”From halftime on we were saying internally that we were going to have to get stops if we wanted to get the game — otherwise it was going to be a scoring fest, first to 140-type thing,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. ”It took us a while to get there … but once we got going, we got into nice defensive rhythm, we were really active, really helping each other, really engaged.”
The Trail Blazers started Cam Reddish, who they acquired in a trade before the deadline with the Knicks. Reddish scored 11 points starting in place of Josh Hart, who was sent to New York in the deal.
”We just couldn’t stop a nosebleed, man. It was really bad,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. ”But it started you know at the start, really. And they’re a tough team to guard. They really are.”
Grant was hit in the face midway through the first quarter and fell to the court. He stayed down for several moments before heading to the locker room. He returned in the second quarter.
There was drama Friday night surrounding another Portland move at the trade deadline: Guard Gary Payton II, sent to the Warriors in a four-team trade, had reportedly flunked his physical – putting the trade in jeopardy.
Blazers general manager Joe Cronin spoke to the media before the game and said he had only just seen the news, first reported by The Athletic, and could not comment.
Oklahoma City was also active before Thursday’s trade deadline, acquiring Justin Jackson and draft picks from the Boston Celtics in exchange for forward/center Mike Muscala. Jackson was waived on Friday.
The Thunder also acquired Dario Saric, a 2029 second-round draft pick and cash considerations from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for forward Darius Bazley. Saric was not yet with the team.
Lillard had 20 points in the opening quarter and the Blazers had a slim 35-33 lead.
The Thunder pulled ahead late in the first half and led 72-68 at the break. Gilgeous-Alexander led all players with 24 points.
Shaedon Sharpe’s 3-pointer gave the Blazers a 105-103 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Thunder: Oklahoma City won the first two meetings with the Blazers this season. … The Thunder signed forward Eugene Omoruyi to a standard contract Friday, bumping him up from a two-way contract.
Trail Blazers: It was the third of a five-game homestand for the Blazers, who went 1-1 to start. … Portland opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run but couldn’t sustain the momentum.
Thunder: Host New Orleans on Monday.
Trail Blazers Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.
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