Basketball: Thunder hold on to end Nuggets’ nine-game winning streak

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives on Denver Nuggets forward Bruce Brown (11). PHOTO: REUTERS

DENVER – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 34 points, including a go-ahead bucket with 9.2sec left, and the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder beat the short-handed Denver Nuggets 101-99 in the National Basketball Association on Sunday night.

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of his star guard: ‘’He’s got some poise in those situations. The game slows down for him. He’s got great confidence and he’s always at his pace, even in the most pressure situations.’‘

Josh Giddey had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Kenrich Williams scored 11 points for Oklahoma City, who ended the Nuggets’ nine-game winning streak and 16-game home winning run.

Jamal Murray scored 26 points and added nine assists, Aaron Gordon had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Zeke Nnaji had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Denver. Bruce Brown added 14 points, Jeff Green chipped in 12 and Christian Braun and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each had 10.

Said Murray: “We didn’t finish like you’re accustomed to seeing us finish. That’s just on us. That hurts, knowing we did everything we could and we didn’t get over the hump.”

The Nuggets played without two starters and coach Michael Malone.

Two-time league Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic sat out his second straight game with left hamstring tightness and Michael Porter Jr was out for personal reasons.

Malone missed his fourth straight game while in the league’s health and safety protocol. Assistant David Adelman continued to serve as acting head coach.

The Thunder led by as many as 11 in the first half but a three-pointer by Brown late in the second quarter got Denver within 52-47 at intermission.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 12 points in the final 6min 30sec of the third quarter to give Oklahoma City an 81-74 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

It was 94-89 after Brown made a lay-up, but he missed a free throw, and Nnaji missed two from the line.

Gilgeous-Alexander hit a shot and Nnaji made a corner three-pointer to cut the deficit to 96-92 with 4:08 left.

After the teams traded empty possessions, Gordon and Nnaji each missed two free throws, the Thunder missed twice on their next possession and Gordon’s lay-up rolled off the rim to keep it a four-point game.

Giddey missed a 21-footer, and Murray’s three cut the deficit to 96-95.

Williams answered with a three-pointer, Gordon hit a lay-up with 1:08 left and Giddey missed a short jumper.

Nnaji was fouled on an offensive rebound and hit two free throws to tie it at 99-99 with 30.2sec left.

Gilgeous-Alexander hit a bank shot with 9.2sec left to give the Thunder the lead again, and Murray missed a 14-footer at the buzzer. REUTERS

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