OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)Just when it appeared it might be ”Dame Time,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stole the show.
Gilgeous-Alexander hit a baseline jumper as time expired, and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 123-121 on Monday to ruin Damian Lillard’s record-setting night.
Gilgeous-Alexander drove to his left and drained a 14-foot pullup over Justise Winslow. The shot capped a 35-point performance for the 24-year-old emerging star who entered the night third in the NBA in scoring.
Lillard said Gilgeous-Alexander is making his mark in the league.
”He’s impressive,” Lillard said. ”He’s obviously a really good player. Not just a good young player. He’s coming into his own. I can remember when I was younger and I became the leader of a team. And I was basically introducing myself as the lead guard on the team, and I was going after it, you know, being aggressive. And I see that he’s in that state. He’s trying to show what he can do.”
Lillard had his clutch moment, too. He made a reverse layup with 3.5 seconds remaining to tie it, and finished with 28 points to break Clyde Drexler’s franchise career scoring record.
Lillard would have preferred to set the mark in a win, but the achievement was still important to him.
”It’s a great feeling to reach the top,” he said. ”It’s been a goal of mine and the list has so many players, great history of our organization, so to finally be No. 1 is a special accomplishment that I’m proud of.”
Drexler, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, had 18,040 points for the Trail Blazers from 1983-95. Lillard entered the night needing 21 to pass him.
Lillard tied Drexler’s total on a 3-pointer from well beyond the line in the third quarter that put the Trail Blazers up 72-67, then broke the mark on a free throw with 1:33 left in the period. Moments later, the Thunder public address announcer informed the crowd of Lillard’s achievement, and the crowd gave him an ovation. Lillard sat and rested, focused on a game the Trail Blazers were trailing by three points at the time.
”Even during the game tonight, I wasn’t playing focused on getting to the record,” Lillard said. ”I was playing the game just trying to win. I knew it would happen eventually.”
The score was tied at 94 heading into the fourth. Anfernee Simons hit back-to-back contested 3s to give Portland a 115-110 lead with about four minutes remaining.
Oklahoma City recovered, and Gilgeous-Alexander finished it off with his final shot.
”I caught it,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. ”I was going to try to face up, but I saw the double team so I tried to spin away from it into the shot.”
Lillard, on Gilgeous-Alexander: ”He’s in a situation where he’s playing free. You know, they believe in him. He’s got a group of guys that understand that he’s the leader. He’s the guy. He’s in a great position. He’s off to a great start.”
Trail Blazers: Former Thunder F Jerami Grant scored 26 points. … Former Thunder head coach Scott Brooks is an assistant in Portland. … Lillard was issued a technical foul in the second quarter for arguing a foul call against him. … F Josh Hart also was called for a technical in the second quarter.
Thunder: Gilgeous-Alexander missed the previous game with a bruised lower back. … G Josh Giddey and F Darius Bazley sat out with non-COVID-19 illnesses. … Gilgeous-Alexander was the only Thunder player to score more than 13 points.
The teams play again in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP
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