Hill's late free throws lift Thunder over Pelicans 111-110
By BRETT MARTEL
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 21 points, George Hill hit the go-ahead free throws with 12 seconds left, and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 111-110 on Wednesday night.
"It was a fun win. Guys were excited after that one because we had to earn that one, all 48 minutes," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. "We stuck together and we made plays. Guys made plays tonight when they had to."
The Pelicans had the final possession, and top scorers Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson both touched the ball. But it was second-year reserve guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker who took the last shot from 3-point range. It rattled out with a couple of seconds remaining and neither team could control the rebound before time expired.
"I saw an open Nickeil," said Ingram, whose pass set up the final shot. "A shot that I've seen him make a thousand times in practice and different games. He was open. He almost made it. It just rolled in and out. It was a good play."
Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy took no issue with the final play, either. It was the Thunder's 27 fast-break points that annoyed him.
"I don't think the last play had much to do with anything. The bottom line is we didn't play any defense," Van Gundy said. "Been going on too long with this group. Dig in, and play the game defensively. ... If you can't win scoring 110 points, there's something wrong."
Darius Bazley had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which avenged a home loss to New Orleans last week while winning for just the second time in six games. Reserve forward Mike Muscala scored 18 points, hitting five 3-pointers. Hill finished with 13.
Williamson scored 29 points, while Ingram had 24 points and 11 rebounds. Steven Adams had 10 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds for his first career triple-double.
Adams scored five points in the final 2:30. He put the Pelicans up 104-100 with a putback while he was fouled and later gave New Orleans a 106-103 lead with 1:35 left.
Gilgeous-Alexander tied it at 106 with a driving layup as he was fouled by Alexander-Walker. He later baited Lonzo Ball into a shooting foul behind the 3-point line and made all three free throws to put Oklahoma City up 109-108 in the final minute.
Williamson's short turnaround off the glass briefly put New Orleans in front once more before Al Horford beat the Pelicans to a rebound of Gilgeous-Alexander's miss and the ball found Hill, who was fouled by Ball to set up the decisive free throws.
"We did a great job of staying resilient and making plays when we had to," Hill said.
Thunder: Made 19 3-pointers on 46 attempts (41.3%). ... Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with nine assists. ... Oklahoma City led by as many as 14 points in the game and by 10 in the fourth quarter before allowing New Orleans to take several late leads.
Pelicans: JJ Redick bruised his right knee and did not play in the second half. ... New Orleans missed 18 of 22 3-point attempts (18.2%) but shot 49.4% (44 of 89) overall. ... The Pelicans outscored the Thunder 58-36 in the paint and outrebounded Oklahoma City 52-38. ... Alexander-Walker finished with 13 points. Ball scored 15 points and Eric Bledsoe 13. ... Josh Hart grabbed 10 rebounds.
Daigneault, a Thunder assistant during Adams' last season in Oklahoma City, wasn't surprised to see the 7-footer finally get double-digit assists.
"He showed last year that when you play through him, he can glue your offense together and that was on display tonight," Daigneault said. "We made a couple mistakes on cuts and he really made us pay for it. That's what makes him a really good player. He not only does the dirty work, but he can quarterback it a little bit, too."
Thunder: Visit the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Pelicans: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
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Updated January 7, 2021