Thunder sneak by Knicks, clinch playoff spot

League: NBA

Posted on: 01 Apr, 2024 at 03:48 AM

Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drained the go-ahead fallaway jumper with 2.6 seconds left and then helped produce a defensive stop just before the buzzer on Sunday night for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who clinched a playoff spot with a 113-112 victory over the host New York Knicks.

It marks Oklahoma City's first playoff berth since 2020, when the Thunder fell to the Houston Rockets in the first round.

Jalen Brunson hit a contested layup with 4.1 seconds left to give the Knicks the lead. After a Thunder timeout, Josh Giddey sent an inbounds pass to Gilgeous-Alexander, who dribbled once to shake Miles McBride before turning and sinking a shot from deep in the left corner.

Following a Knicks timeout, Donte DiVincenzo got the ball to Brunson, who was covered by Gilgeous-Alexander. Brunson's turnaround jumper bounced off the top of the rim as time expired.

Brunson's miss capped a wild fourth quarter in which the Thunder overcame a 10-point deficit and shot 15 of 19 from the field but just 3-for-8 from the free-throw line.

The Knicks trailed by as many as eight in the fourth, when they were 7-for-23 from the field and 10 of 17 from the foul line. The teams combined for five lead changes.

Giddey (16 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) had a triple-double while Jalen Williams scored a game-high 33 points for the Thunder (52-22), who won for the sixth time in eight games and moved into first place in the Western Conference by virtue of the Minnesota Timberwolves' 109-101 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.

Gilgeous-Alexander, who missed the previous two games with a bruised right quad, finished with 19 points.

Brunson scored 30 points but missed a potential game-winner in the waning seconds for the second straight game. He missed a 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds remaining in Friday night's 130-126 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Josh Hart (13 points, 15 rebounds) and Isaiah Hartenstein (17 points, 12 rebounds) each recorded a double-double, while McBride had 19 points. DiVincenzo added 15 points for the Knicks (44-30), who missed a chance to move into third place in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers (45-30) fell to the Denver Nuggets, 130-101, earlier Sunday.

Williams scored 17 points through the first two quarters, helping Oklahoma City carry a 50-46 edge into the break. Neither team led by more than seven in the first half.

--Field Level Media