NEW ORLEANS (AP) For all the scoring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does for Oklahoma City, his hustle back on defense after having a shot blocked was a pivotal part of a playoff series-clinching victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

“To win basketball games, a lot goes into it,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We just know those little things come with winning and we do it every opportunity we get.”

Gilgeous-Alexander had 24 points and 10 rebounds and the Thunder beat the Pelicans 97-89 on Monday night to complete a four-game sweep of their first-round playoff series.

The game turned on a fourth-quarter sequence which began with Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado knocking the ball from Gilgeous-Alexander as he attempted a mid-range shot. Pelicans guard CJ McCollum grabbed the ball and dribbled the other way on a two-on-one fast break against the Thunder's Jalen Williams.

When McCollum's layup attempt missed, Gilgeous-Alexander, trailing from behind, grabbed the rebound.

“I turned it over, clearly. And then they would have got a layup if it wasn’t for Dub,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, referring to Williams’ defense under the basket. “I just wanted to make sure that if he did his part, I was there to do my part”

Soon after, Chet Holmgren’s putback and Josh Giddey’s 3 tied it at 80 and ignited a decisive 18-2 run, capped by Williams’ 3, that put the Thunder up 93-82 with 3:08 left.

“Guys played with great confidence and when we play offense the way we did in the fourth quarter, the shots will go in a little bit more,” said Thunder coach Mark Daigneault, who a day earlier had been named the NBA’s coach of the year. “When we needed to, we really worked together, executed, got great shots. The guys delivered.”

Williams finished with 24 points. Giddey and Holmgren each scored 14 points. Holmgren also had nine rebounds.

“We knew tonight was going to be a challenge,” Giddey said. “Guys came in with the right mindset ... and we put it to bed.”

McCollum scored 20 for New Orleans, which was plagued by poor 3-point shooting. The Pelicans hit just eight of 34 shots from deep (23.5%).

“We were right there,” McCollum said. “This is a really good team we played against. Obviously, they are the No. 1 team for a reason, and it’s disappointing we weren’t able to get one game.”

Jonas Valanciunas had 19 point and 13 rebounds but might have produced more had he not been limited by foul trouble to 26 minutes on the court. Naji Marshall hit half of the Pelicans' 3s and finished with 16 points.

“I loved our fight and the way we battled tonight," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “That’s a special group in that locker room, and what I told them is that there’s no other group that we would rather get on that floor and compete with than that group. They poured it out tonight. Unfortunately, we came up short.”

The Thunder held a 44-43 halftime lead in a game was highly competitive through three quarters, with 18 lead changes and neither team leading by more than five.

“The defense just kind of stabilized us all night,” Daigneault said. "The game never got away from us, despite struggles offensively.

The Pelicans, Daigneault said, “tested our conviction in the game plan and the guys just stuck with it.”

New Orleans stayed close despite Brandon Ingram missing 12 of 14 shots and finishing with eight points - well below his season average of 20.8 points per game.

With the Pelicans missing star power forward and leading scorer Zion Williamson for all four games in the series, New Orleans needed more from Ingram.

“Obviously, with the injury to (Zion) Williamson, that changed the complexion of their team coming into the series,” Daigneault said.

But the normally Ingram was largely frustrated by the physical defending of the Thunder's Lu Dort.

“For Lou to kind of take that challenge and do that is huge for us,” Williams said.



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