NBA playoffs: Thunder push ahead late to beat Pelicans, complete series sweep

It took a late run from Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams, but the Thunder are headed to the Western Conference semifinals

It wasn't a great outing Monday night, but the Oklahoma City Thunder got the job done.

The Thunder are now headed into the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in nearly a decade.

The Thunder used a late run to fend off the New Orleans Pelicans 97-89 in Game 4 of their opening-round playoff series Monday at the Smoothie King Center. The win completed the 4-0 series sweep and officially sends them into the next round of the playoffs. It was their first series win since 2016 and first sweep since 2012. They reached the Western Conference finals during that 2016 run, but were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.

The Pelicans, on the other hand, have now been swept for the first time since 2015.

After a tight battle through the first 36 minutes, the Pelicans appeared to be running away with the game early in the fourth quarter. They entered the period with a one-point lead, which was their first entering the final period all series, and nearly pushed it to seven points right out of the gate.

The Thunder, though, responded immediately with an 8-0 burst of their own to get right back in it, thanks largely to back-to-back 3-pointers from Josh Giddey. They quickly pushed that to a 18-2 run and held the Pelicans to just one field goal — a C.J. McCollum layup — the rest of the way. New Orleans simply shut down.

The Pelicans finished with just 18 points in the period while the Thunder held on to seal the eight-point win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 24 points and nine rebounds in the win. Jalen Williams had 24 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter, and eight rebounds. Giddey finished with 14 points, and he hit all four of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help power the final run with Williams.

The Pelicans struggled for much of the night offensively while Zion Williamson — who injured his hamstring in their first play-in tournament game and has been sidelined since — watched on from the bench. They shot just 3-of-19 from the 3-point line as a team in the first half, and Brandon Ingram finished with eight points on a 2-of-14 night from the field. The Pelicans didn't score more than 92 points in any of their four playoff games. Williamson was eyeing a return to the court later this series, but it would have taken until at least Game 5 for him to play again if everything went right in his recovery. Now, though, it doesn't matter.

McCollum led the Pelicans with 20 points in the loss, and Jonas Valanciunas had 19 points and 13 rebounds. The Pelicans finished shooting just 8-of-34 from behind the arc, and they had 18 turnovers as a unit.

The Thunder will now advance into the second round, where they’ll take on the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks series. That series is tied 2-2 headed into Wednesday’s Game 5, so they’ll get several days rest before the next series kicks off.

While that series is sure to be much more competitive either way, the Thunder don't have to worry about that just yet. They've secured their first series win since the Kevin Durant era, which is all that matters.