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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hits game-winner to lift Thunder past Knicks, clinch first playoff berth since 2020

Thanks to a clutch shot from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Oklahoma City Thunder are finally headed back to the playoffs.

Gilgeous-Alexander expertly hit a turnaround jumper with less than two seconds left on Sunday night to lift the Thunder to a 113-112 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. That officially clinched a playoff spot for the Thunder, who haven’t been to the postseason since the NBA’s bubble season during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Gilgeous-Alexander caught an inbounds pass with less than five seconds to go in the game on Sunday with the Thunder down by a point. He took one dribble, turned to his right and perfectly drilled the bucket from the short corner.

The Knicks got one last chance, but star Jalen Brunson’s game-winner was off the mark. That gave the Thunder the one-point in Manhattan.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s shot only came after a wild shot from Brunson on the other end. Brunson, with the Knicks down by a point, drove to the rim and somehow managed to sneak a layup past both Lu Dort and Chet Holmgren.

Brunson led the Knicks with 30 points and seven assists in the loss. Miles McBride added 19 points, and Josh Hart finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds. The Knicks fell to 44-30 after Sunday’s loss, though they still sit in fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 19 points in the win for Oklahoma City. Jalen Williams added 33 points and eight assists after shooting 14-of-18 from the field. Guard Josh Giddey had a triple-double, too, with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. It marked his third straight triple-double at Madison Square Garden, which makes him the first player in history to record three triple-doubles in his first three games at the arena.

The Thunder now hold a 52-22 record, which gives them a slight edge over both the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves for the lead in th Western Conference. The team missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. They were knocked out in the first round in the bubble at Walt Disney World in 2020, which marked their fourth straight first round exit.

Though the Western Conference is loaded once again, especially at the top, the Thunder are in the middle of their best season in years. Gilgeous-Alexander’s finish on Sunday is just the latest example of how dangerous they can be in the playoffs this spring.