On Wednesday, the Thunder entered the Smoothie King Arena with a lot to prove. After Monday’s loss vs. the Heat, the Thunder ranked dead last in the league in points (100.3) and 3-point percentage (31.4%,) while also ranking 26th in assists (22.0).
The Thunder started the game with zero issues, jumping out to an early 12-7 lead after hitting four of their first five threes. As the saying goes, live by the three, die by the three, and the Thunder sure did. They missed their next five threes, allowing the Pelicans to go on a commanding 12-0 run that pushed them to an early 34-26 lead through the first. Despite the Thunder’s woes, they still kept jacking up threes launching 17 of their 25 shots (68%) from deep in the first. The Pelicans found their offense inside baking up 16 points in the paint through one.
In the second, the Thunder’s bench took over pouring on 21 points to the Pelicans 7 through the first six minutes of the quarter. Hamidou Diallo was a major initiator of the offense in this run, piling up 7 points, while others like Isaiah Roby, Theo Maledon, and Mike Muscala hit a shot from distance. After Thunder coach Mark Daigneault tinkered with this lineup, the Pels went onto score 12 in three minutes. From that point on in the quarter things were back-and-forth ultimately with the Pelicans up 59-54.
The third quarter brought the emergence of Thunder forward Darius Bazely, who pitched in 15 points in the first four minutes of the quarter alone (on 6-8 shooting), carrying the team to a quick 18-2 run. The Pelicans could never find to go on a streak of their own in the third, going for a game low 19 points in the quarter (Bazley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander combined for 25 in the period), giving the Thunder a 10-point, 88-78 lead going into the fourth.
The much-needed Pelicans run started right out the gate for their squad, erased the deficit to just one point with nine to go. That was when Mike Muscala cashed in on three triples in a row for the Thunder, in a span of 45 seconds to extend OKC’s lead back to double-digits. That stretch by Muscala seemed like the dagger in this game, but the rest of the Thunder unit could not pick up where Muscala left off. The Pelicans coasted to a 12-0 lead to take a 99-97 lead with 4:13 to go.
Those final moments of the game could only be described as roller coaster as it contained five lead changes and three ties. The last 30 seconds of the game saw Zion hit a 7-foot jumper to put the Pelicans up a point, followed by George Hill getting to the line off a Lonzo Ball shooting foul with 12.1 to go. Hill buried both shots at the charity stripe to give the Thunder a 111-110 lead. The final play to this game came in dramatic fashion, the Pelicans found a wide-open Nickeil Alexander-Walker from deep, given plenty of time and space he fired away on the 25-footer- no good. Pelican’s center Steven Adams fought for the board, but the buzzer had sounded. Thunder win.
For the Pelicans, they had a great performance highlighted by Steven Adams’ fist career triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Zion Williamson led their team in scoring with 29 points on 12-17 shooting, whilst Brandon Ingram was a hair behind with 24 on 9-15 shooting.
The Thunder ran their success through a variety of players on Wednesday. Darius Bazley posted his season-high 20 points on 8-20 shooting while tying his season-high of 12 boards. Mike Muscala popped in 18 quick ones on 6-9 shooting with five of his makes coming from downtown. However; the main player in this game was none other than Shai Gilgeous Alexander, who finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, and a career-high 5 steals. Those steals were a major player in this decisive win being that the Pelicans gave up 16 turnovers in the game, resulting in 24 easy points for the Thunder.
Both team’s shot in the forties in this game, but the stat that mattered was the three. Oklahoma City shot 19-46 (41%) from downtown while the Pelicans shot a barbarous 4-22 (18%.) New Orleans’ lack of a consistent jumper applied constant pressure to their squad throughout the game. A variety of bad shots inside permitted for Thunder players to run back early on transition and get and rack up 27 points on the fastbreak, without a hassle.
With this win, the Thunder elevated themselves to a 3-4 record, and came themselves in a perfect spot to reach the .500 mark. The Pelicans with this defeat, faltered to a .500 record at 4-4, and now find themselves in a five-way tie for the 4th seed in the West.
For the Thunder, they will set out to continue their excellence from Wednesday in Friday’s game vs. the New York Knicks (5-3.)