PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the depleted Portland Trail Blazers 118-112 on Sunday.
Jalen Williams had 23 points and Isaiah Joe added 20 off the bench for Oklahoma City. It was a crucial win for the Thunder in the Western Conference play-in race. They improved to 37-38 and moved into a tie for ninth place with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shaedon Sharpe led the Trail Blazers with a career-high 29 points, and Nassir Little scored a season-high 28 off the bench. The loss was Portland’s eighth in 10 games, dropping the team to 32-42 this season. The Blazers are four games back of 10th place in the West and the final spot in the play-in tournament.
Portland was playing without four of its five regular starters as guards Damian Lillard (right calf) and Anfernee Simons (right foot), forward Jerami Grant (left calf) and center Jusuf Nurkic (right knee) all sat out.
The Blazers started off hot and built a 37-25 lead at the end of the first quarter, but squandered it with a 7-for-21 shooting performance in the second, allowing Oklahoma City to take a 68-62 lead into halftime.
The second half began in much the same way: Portland retook the lead with an 11-0 run powered by Sharpe and Little. That led to a back-and-forth third quarter before Oklahoma City pulled away midway through the fourth.
Thunder: Lindy Waters III was a late scratch due to a plantar fasciitis injury that flared up during pregame warmups.
Trail Blazers: Despite recent reports that Portland is shutting down its regular starters for the season, coach Chauncey Billups said Lillard, Grant, Simons and Nurkic are day-to-day. “We’re just being cautious,” Billups said. … F Trendon Watford sustained a right ankle injury in the first quarter and returned, but was later ruled out for the rest of the game.
Thunder: Return home to host the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.
Trail Blazers: Continue a five-game homestand Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans.