Giddey spectates as OKC pip Pelicans in playoffs return

Murray Wenzel |

Josh Giddey (c) played just 20 minutes as Oklahoma City won their playoffs opener.
Josh Giddey (c) played just 20 minutes as Oklahoma City won their playoffs opener.

Josh Giddey was relegated to the bench for crunch time in his NBA playoffs debut as top-seeded Oklahoma City were almost run down by an undermanned New Orleans.

The Australian third-year point guard played just 20 minutes and wasn’t sighted in the final 10 minutes of a see-sawing, first-round Western Conference meeting with the Pelicans.

After 20 lead changes and 11 ties the Thunder prevailed 94-92, CJ McCollom’s off-balance effort to win on the buzzer missing for the eighth-seeded visiting side who were without leading scorer Zion Williamson (hamstring).

“I thought we showed great grit down the stretch,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. 

“A tight game. It was a bit of a brawl for both teams offensively. And we made plays defensively down the stretch, big time plays, and had the resolve to go in and win the game.”

Josh Giddey
Josh Giddey defends against a driving Trey Murphy III.

It was the Thunder’s first post-season game at home since 2019, Giddey’s side the youngest top-seeds in NBA history with an average age of 23.9.

Giddey had found his offensive swagger in the final quarter of the regular season but made just one-of-six shots, missing both of his long-range attempts.

The Boomers star (two points, three rebounds, three assists) was still plus-seven during his time on court and they missed his presence off the glass, collecting eight offensive rebounds to the Pelicans’ 18.

Compatriot Dyson Daniels played just under three minutes off the bench for the Pelicans and didn’t take a shot.

Thunder All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points, including the go-ahead basket in the final minute, while Jalen Williams scored 19 points and Chet Holmgren added 15 points, 11 rebounds and five rebounds.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (c) led the Thunder’s scoring.

Trey Murphy III scored 21 points and McCollum added 20 for the Pelicans. 

In Boston, Jayson Tatum notched his first career playoff triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead Eastern Conference top seeds the Celtics past the Miami Heat 114-94 in game 1.

Jimmy Butler (knee) didn’t play while Australian guard Patty Mills wasn’t used by the Heat, who knocked the Celtics out in the deciding seventh game of last season’s conference finals.

In Los Angeles, James Harden scored 28 points, Ivica Zubac had a double-double and the Clippers defeated Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks to win their Western Conference playoffs series opener.

Doncic led the Mavericks with 33 points and 13 rebounds. Kyrie Irving had 31 points and seven rebounds, but the Mavs got little from their supporting cast.

Australian pair Dante Exum and fit-again Josh Green played 15 and nine minutes respectively for Dallas, contributing a combined seven points, three rebounds and three assists.

In Milwaukee, Damian Lillard scored all 35 of his points before halftime as the host Bucks withstood the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo to defeat Indiana 109-94 in their Eastern Conference opener.

The Bucks needed Lillard to step up without Antetokounmpo, whose return date is uncertain as he deals with a strained left calf that also caused him to miss Milwaukee’s final three regular-season games.

Pascal Siakam had 36 points and 13 rebounds for the Pacers, who hadn’t scored fewer than 99 points in the regular season while averaging a league-high 123.3 points per game. 

With AP, Reuters