Coming off two defeats in the Thunder’s back-to-back set on Monday and Tuesday, the Thunder were determined to take down the New Orleans Pelicasns in Thursday’s match up. This game saw a familiar face return to the ‘Peake, as Steven Adams made his return to Oklahoma City after being traded to the Pelicans over the off season. Adams’ played for the Thunder franchise for seven seasons, and was given a tribute video before the game (though, I don’t believe it was played in the arena.)
Things were neck-and-neck in the first quarter, as neither team had a lead bigger than four in the period. For the Thunder, they made their intentions clear on the offensive end early– shoot the three. Of the team’s 21 shots in the first, 16 of those were from beyond the arch, hitting seven of those attempts. The Pelicans also had their agenda pushed early, taking a wave of shots up inside, scoring 20 points in the paint in the quarter, giving them a 31-28 lead going into the second. Steven Adams was the biggest bright spot for the Pels early, tacking on eight points early.
Both teams were off the mark in the second, with both teams shooting 30% from downtown. The real determining factor in the quarter was the inside game, which the Pelicans ousted the Thunder 12-6. The biggest run of the first half came in the last 3 minutes of the quarter, when the Pelicans went on an 8-0 run to expand their led to 11, at 58-47.
The third quarter appeared to be a repeat of the first, with neither team being able to go on any sort of run. The Thunder were given a golden opportunity to chip down on the Pelicans lead when forward Brandon Ingram (who finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds) was ejected after delivering a face-flattening head-shot to Isaiah Roby whilst going up for a layup. This opening in the game was never seized by the Thunder, with the Pelicans holding a 85-73 lead come the fourth.
Mark Daigneault threw out an ultra-young lineup in the final quarter, matching them up on head-to-head vs. the Pelicans starters. The less-experienced Thunder group only put up 2 points through six minutes in the quarter, and marked up seven in total. The Pelicans blew this game wide open, starting out on a 17-2 run and ultimately outscoring the Thunder 113-80.
For the Pelicans, they seemingly resolved all the issues they had entering this game, ranking dead last in points (98.8) and 3pt% (29.6), going for 113 points and 36% from deep. The Pelicans had seven players in double-figures, including Steven Adams with his 14 points.
The Thunder lived and died by the three, tying a franchise record 29 3-pointers in the first half, and jacking up 19 more in the second half. After there hot 7-16 shooting in the first, they became ice cold, going 7/32 (21%) in the last three quarters.
Usual stars for the Thunder team didn’t show up much in this game. Shai GIlgeous-Alexander only managed to drop 8 points on 3-10 shooting, while Bazley and Dort went on for 7 and 8 points respectively, with both shooting under 50%.
The Thunder had two players in double figures in Al Horford (17 points) and Mike Muscala (10 points), but the real bright spot on this team came from the opportunities given to the young bucks of the team. The Thunder gave all but two players (Justin Jackson and Darius Miller) playing time in this game, including giving 2-way player Moses Brown his Thunder debut.
Expanding the rotation in this game may pay dividends, as the Thunder will have a shot at redemption on Saturday vs. the Orlando Magic.