NBA

NBA: Thunder earn West's No. 1 seed

By Sports Desk April 14, 2024

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 points in just one half of action to lead seven Oklahoma City players in double figures as the Thunder clinched the Western Conference's No. 1 seed with a 135-86 rout of the depleted Dallas Mavericks in Sunday's regular-season finale.

The Thunder, who missed the postseason in each of the previous three seasons, earned the conference's top spot for the first time since 2012-13 after winning a tiebreaker with the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets. Both teams finished with 57–25 records, but Oklahoma City won three of the four meetings between the clubs. 

Oklahoma City rested most of its starting five for the entire second half after building an insurmountable 82-41 lead over Dallas, which held out stars Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving and two other starters with its playoff seed already known.

The Mavericks were locked into the West's No. 5 seed and will face the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in the quarterfinals.

Oklahoma City shot 60.7 per cent in the first quarter to own a 39-22 advantage after 12 minutes, then overwhelmed Dallas' makeshift lineup in the second to put the game already out of reach.

The Thunder outscored the Mavericks by a 43-19 margin for the period, with reserve Aaron Wiggins leading the way with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting.

Wiggins finished with 14 points and Chet Holmgren had 13 along with nine rebounds before also sitting out the second half.

Brandon Williams paced Dallas with 22 points, while rookie Olivier Maxence-Prosper had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Mavericks.

 

Suns thump Timberwolves to avoid play-in round

In another of the West's pivotal games on the season's final day, the Phoenix Suns secured a spot in the quarterfinals with a 125-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves to set up a first-round clash between the teams.

Phoenix's win coupled with New Orleans' 124-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday moved the Suns ahead of the Pelicans for the West's No. 6 seed. New Orleans will now host the Lakers once again on Tuesday in the play-in round.

Minnesota entered the day tied with Oklahoma City and Denver for the West's top record, but fell to the No. 3 seed and will face the Suns in the best-of-seven quarterfinals.

Phoenix set up the rematch behind a big performance from Bradley Beal, who made all six of his 3-point attempts while tallying 36 points. The Suns also received 23 points and seven assists from Devin Booker and 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from Grayson Allen.

Beal set the tone right from the start, as he dropped in 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter as Phoenix took a commanding 44-22 lead into the second.

The Suns maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way, with Minnesota never getting its deficit under 10 points over the final three quarters.

Rudy Gobert led the Timberwolves with 21 points and seven rebounds, but All-Star Anthony Edwards was held to 13 points in 35 minutes and committed five of Minnesota's 24 turnovers, which tied a single-game high for the season.

 

Knicks outlast Bulls in overtime to secure East's No. 2 seed

Jalen Brunson's 40 points and some big shots from his supporting cast catapulted the New York Knicks into the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed with a 120-119 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls.

The Knicks leapfrogged the Milwaukee Bucks in the standings after rallying from an eight-point deficit with nine minutes left in regulation and then holding off Chicago during the final stages of overtime. Brunson added eight rebounds and seven assists, while Donte DiVincenzo recorded 25 points and Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 13 points off the bench.

Milwaukee finished one game back of New York following Sunday's 113-88 loss to Orlando, a result that enabled the Magic to avoid the play-in round. The Bucks would have won the tiebreaker with the Knicks had the teams ended with identical records.

New York appeared on the verge of defeat when down 90-82 early in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks scored 14 of the game's next 20 points to draw even.

A Bogdanovic 3-pointer with 6:48 left cut Chicago's lead to 94-93, and after DeMar DeRozan's jumper gave the Bulls some breathing room, DiVincenzo knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 96-96 with five minutes to go.

Chicago took a 109-107 edge on Coby White's layup with 1:19 remaining in regulation, but Brunson answered with a short jumper on the ensuing possession and neither team could score in the final minute.

After the Bulls' Alex Caruso opened overtime with a 3-pointer, New York scored seven straight points to own a 116-112 advantage with 2:27 left.

Chicago, which entered the contest already locked into the play-in round as the East's No. 9 seed, continued to battle back before missing out on a chance to win at the end.

Caruso's layup with 14.4 seconds on the clock brought the Bulls within 120-119 before DiVincenzo turned the ball over on the next possession. Chicago then got the ball to DeRozan, who couldn't get a short jumper to fall with 2.8 seconds left as the Knicks held on.

DeRozan finished with 30 points and Nikola Vucevic had 29 along with 11 rebounds for Chicago, which also received 26 points from White.

The Bulls will host the 10th-seeded Atlanta Hawks in Wednesday's play-in round.

 

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