Bricktown Beat

Thunder sulk in clutch time, plummet to Pelicans 80-65

Action shots from Wednesday's Thunder-Pelicans clash in Summer League action.(Photo by David Dow | NBAE via Getty Images)
Aaron Wiggins (21) looks to shake his man driving baseline. Wiggins recorded a team-high 16 points Wednesday evening.
Photo Credits: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Without No. 6 Pick Josh Giddey (ankle), the Oklahoma City Thunder plummeted to the New Orleans Pelicans 80-65. For the Thunder, this marks the team’s first loss in Summer League play, now teetering on a 1-1 record. From the Pelicans’ perspective, their victory mounts them on a mountain of just seven teams to remain unbeaten through two games. 

The Thunder hit the ground running on a 7-2 opener with a Tre Mann 23-foot stepback coupled with a Charlie Brown Jr. dunk and triple. The Pelicans took offense to Oklahoma City’s early strike, responding with five straight points of their own to charge a chess match. Neither side planted significant footing until the two-minute mark as an 8-0 Pelicans push pulled them from a point down, to being up seven. The Thunder forked together a few late-frame highlights, including a Tre Mann no-look pass to Josh Hall — no dice, but they couldn’t bridge the gap, finding themselves out 22-17 through one. 

The Thunder’s “bench mob” stormed right into the action for the second frame, holding the Pelicans to an 0-of-4 start en route to a 13-2 run. Aaron Wiggins exploded, dropping six points in Oklahoma City’s run through a reverse layup and transition jam, but the second-rounder unloaded a triple as soon as the Pelicans found the basket. Oklahoma City remained poignant defensively highlighted by a Jeremiah Robinson-Earl pindown rejection on Naji Marshall, but the offense failed to keep on pace. As a result of their 1-of-9 cold spell, New Orleans swooped back the lead off a Trey Murphy III floater, inflating to 35-32 at its peak. By half, the game was knotted at 35 all.

The Thunder and Pelicans logged near-identical stats with 38.2 and 38.9 percent outings respectively. Oklahoma City lacked any X-factor from downtown shooting a mere 4-of-11, but a serving of ten free throws threw them a lifeline — they nailed just five tries. 

Oklahoma City tested their three-ball to kick off the second-half sending off four quick-trigger triples, but only one found the mark. As a result, New Orleans grasped onto a 10-3 opening run before Theo Maledon clapped back with a straightaway three and Tre Mann diced in two runners to close the gap to a single possession, but an ending 6-0 Pelicans’ stent placed the Thunder are their largest deficit down 57-49. 

Both sides stagnated as the fourth stage began, but a mid-quarter resurgence from New Orleans helped set the tone for the night’s outcome. New Orleans took their double-digit lead and ran with it surging a 15-8 stretch through the midway point thanks to a 3-of-11 phase from Oklahoma City. The Thunder made a late attempt at cracking the Pelicans’ lead, but a faulty 6-of-20 (1-of-5 3pt) fourth-quarter boxed them in from any momentum. For the Pelicans, they shot a mere 2-of-5 from distance in the quarter, but a springy fastbreak offense bolstered themselves to a 60 percent outing in the period. At the horn, New Orleans secured things 80-65.

Point blank — Oklahoma City failed to nail their shots. Though the Thunder outrebounded the Pelicans 8-3 on the offensive glass, a costly 25-of-75 (33.3%) showing from the field placed themselves as outcasts for the evening. Honing in on the three-ball, Oklahoma City shot below 25 percent for their second-consecutive game, finishing 7-of-29 (24.1%) from that zone. 

New Orleans lacked any security in victory through three quarters, but their high effort in the final ten minutes garnered them the win. Overall, their 32-of-67 (47.8%) palate from the field overpowered the Thunder, but their 8-of-21 (38.1%) outing from distance stacked the odds in their favor.

Aaron Wiggins played team captain off of the bench, riveting home 16 points (7-of-16 FG) and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes. The rookie flashed another dimension of his game Wednesday nailing all but one of his shots around the basket, shooting a lowly 1-of-7 from distance. Wiggins’ footwork made a return for Game No. 2 as his top-of-the-key drives leading to post spins wound himself into multiple open looks, and one contested shot. Defensively, Wiggins utilized his 6-foot-7 frame to take guards and wings alike for 2 steals and a block.

Tre Mann laid an egg going 4-of-15 overall, but the first-round pick placed a flurry of highlights. Mann’s quick-first step obliterated New Orleans’ first line of defense, but a wall of interior defenders caused some disruption. Even with the degree of difficulty, Mann looked to absorb contact every time he drove in leading to some unfriendly bounces and some drops of success. Mann’s biggest breakout moment came as he slashed hard inside, took contact at the apex of his leap, tucked the ball under his shoulder, and wielded up a made layup while falling down. 

Theo Maledon stole Cade Cunningham’s spotlight in his Summer League debut, but the sophomore deescalated Wednesday. Theo struggled to find a groove going 2-of-11 (1-of-7 3pt) from the floor, and posted 3 assists to 5 turnovers in his 29 minutes.

Oscar da Silva posted honorable numbers off the bench cracking double-digits with 11 points and 5 rebounds. Oscar da Silva presented the Thunder formidable inside protection with a block, but his biggest selling point saw him pop out for three, nailing both of his attempts. 

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl reached six fouls on the night, but the physicality was noted. Robinson-Earl’s second-quarter pindown block was doused with a posterizer deny coming from Trey Murphy III, though the sendoff was ruled a foul. Robinson-Earl’s pick-and-pop game remained promising, going 2-of-4 from downtown, though his inside game got little run.

The Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1) will take a one-day hiatus before teeing off against the Golden State Warriors (1-1.)

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