OKC Thunder: SGA receives MVP chants as Thunder win another close one vs. Trail Blazers, 101-98

Dec. 22—With a chance to essentially seal a third consecutive win, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was showered with MVP chants from the home crowd as he swished in two free throws.

Both makes gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a 101-98 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers with 0.3 seconds left.

The MVP chants are slowly becoming a tradition for Gilgeous-Alexander this season as he continues to play like one of the best players in the league.

Earlier in the year when he was asked about them, Gilgeous-Alexander grinned and said it felt like being in a video game. Now? It's just another day in the office.

"I would say I'm getting more used to them as they continue," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "But it's always fun. Really appreciate them for sure."

It was Gilgeous-Alexander's 12th and 13th trip to the charity stripe. In 35 minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 27 points on 8-of-19 shooting and went 11-of-13 from the free-throw line.

Gilgeous-Alexander outshot the Trail Blazers at the free-throw line, 13 attempts to nine attempts. Overall, the Thunder had 25 attempts.

The Thunder and Trail Blazers played each other twice in a three-day span and both games were essentially carbon copies of each other.

Both contests came down to the final possession and the largest lead was 14 points by the Trail Blazers.

The Thunder is now 14-18 on the season with three straight wins against playoff contenders in the Memphis Grizzlies and Trail Blazers. The biggest test for the Thunder will be on Friday, Dec. 23, against the third-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.

Here are three other thoughts from the Thunder's three-point win over the Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard struggles

The first matchup between these teams on Monday saw Damian Lillard score 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting and 6-of-12 from three. Lillard made history by passing Clyde Drexler for the all-time leading scorer in Trail Blazers' history.

Wednesday was a different story.

Lillard finished with 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting and 2-of-11 from three. In the fourth quarter, Lillard was held to two points on 1-of-5 shooting.

Lu Dort gets a lot of credit for matching up well against Lillard. Dort is usually assigned the best player on the opposing end and he did an excellent job at limiting Lillard.

"He wins us a lot of games on that end," Josh Giddey said about Dort's defense. "You give Lu a lot of credit for (the job he did defending Lillard tonight)."

Josh Giddey returns

Giddey made his return after a two-game absence dealing with a non-COVID illness. In 31 minutes, Giddey finished with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, six assists and six rebounds.

After the game, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said he was surprised by Giddey's ability to play at a high level after dealing with an illness for several days prior.

The illness was so serious that Giddey admitted he lost 10 pounds when he was sick.

"He played more than I thought he was going to be able to play just based on his conditioning and based on how he was with the illness," Daigneault said. "I was impressed by how he played. I thought he had a good jolt and was able to sustain long minutes."

Tre Mann lights up G League

While the Thunder was battling the Trail Blazers, Tre Mann was lighting it up in Las Vegas with the Oklahoma City Blue.

In the first game of the Winter Showcase against the Orlando Magic's G League affiliate, Mann finished with 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 7-of-11 from three. 34 of those points came in the first three quarters.

When the Thunder sent Mann down, this type of performance was likely the best-case scenario for him as he tries to regain his confidence and rhythm.

Clemente Almanza is a sports reporter intern for The Transcript. You can reach him via email at or on Twitter @CAlmanza1007