When the third quarter came to an end the Thunder were up 87 – 84. They had been in the lead for a majority of the game, but New Orleans had been hanging around. The fourth quarter started with Russell Westbrook off the floor, and the Thunder bench absolutely took over the game. When Russ checked back in with 7:20 left, the Thunder were now up 13 and controlled the rest of the quarter on their way to a 121 – 100 victory.
The fourth quarter wasn’t the only time the OKC bench shined, they were amazing throughout the entire night. THEY WERE A +61 while putting up 52 points, which is well above their season average of 35.6. They were led in scoring by Enes Kanter (14), Joffrey Lauvergne (10) and Alex Abrines (18). Yes, you saw that correctly, 18 from Abrines. He had a career night and played with a confidence that I haven’t seen out of the Spanish youngster. He went 5 – 11 from 3 and even had a nice take to the rim for an and-1.
As for the Pelicans’ bench, they were completely outplayed tonight. They had 46 total points, but 21 of those were from Terrance Jones who played the third most minutes on their team tonight. And really, the problem wasn’t so much their scoring as much as it was their defense.
Speaking of terrible Pelicans defense, they had absolutely no answer for the Thunder bigs. Similar to their first meeting earlier this year, the Thunder went to work down low scoring 56 points in the paint against a New Orleans defense that allows 44 a game. The Stache bros and Lauvergne combined for 36 points and 30 rebounds. The bigs were also passing well from the low post, especially Lauvergne who dropped some absolute dimes that led to Thunder buckets. The Thunder big men, along with the rest of the team, dominated the glass 49 – 34, and pulled down 13 offensive boards.
Russell put on another scoring showcase finishing with 42 points on 12 of 26 shooting, but it kind of flew under the radar with the focus on the Thunder bench and Abrines. Jrue Holliday, who at times has defended Westbrook decently, was unable to stay in front of Russ tonight. There were multiple occasions where Russell drove right past him which led to a bucket, a foul or an assist for the Thunder point guard. Including this one…
The Thunder also took care of the ball tonight much better than they did in their last meeting with the Pelicans, with only 9 turnovers compared to 16.
For the Pelicans, Anthony Davis did his thing going for 34 points on 14-26 shooting and 15 rebounds. The Thunder played decent defense on him, but he is just impossible to stop. New Orleans also missed a lot of open shots, luckily for the Thunder. It seemed the Thunder had some issues, which we’ve seen at times this season, with rotation and just basic close outs on the shooter. There were also some lapses in the pick-and-roll defense, specifically Sabonis losing Terrance Jones on several occasions.
In conclusion, both teams played at a fast pace tonight, which is their style and the final score shows it. The Thunder defense wasn’t great all around, but a part of that can be attributed to the loss of Oladipo as Morrow and Abrines (combined 48 minutes) aren’t great defenders. But the solid play from the bench along with a great scoring night from Russ led to this victory for the Thunder.
- Buddy Hield making his 11th start of the season tonight. In his first meeting with the Thunder he put up 16 points in 15 minutes. Tonight, he had 2 points in 19 minutes.
- The Thunder average 16.3 fast break points per game which is third in the league. They had 21 tonight.
- Tyreke Evans was on a minute restriction coming off injury. 3 right knee surgeries, man… that’s brutal.
- The Thunder went to the paint a lot early. First with Steven Adams and then when Kanter checked in they fed him. It worked as they dominated the paint tonight and the Pelicans had no answer on defense trying out pretty much everyone they had on the Thunder big men.
- The Pelicans were getting the Thunder to switch early on to where Morrow was having to pickup Holiday. He was getting absolutely destroyed. I wonder if Holiday used to do that to Morrow in Pelicans’ practice when A Mo was in NOLA.
- Abrines checked in and nailed his first shot, which was a 3. Maybe he just has to see the first one go in to really take off. Man, his performance tonight got me hyped up. If he could give the Thunder even something remotely close to that off the bench on a consistent basis, that would be incredible. His floor spacing ability is greatly needed, especially with Oladipo out.
- Asik fell down twice in a span of like 5 seconds. The second time a foul was called on Christon but I think he’s just bad at walking… and basketball.
- The Kanter/Lauvergne fast break was beautiful. Kanter handles the ball well on the break for a guy his size. He even threw a slight hesitation step in there.
- The Pelicans ran a play in the second that looked like a three-man weave that you ran in middle school practice. It worked though as the ball ended up in Terrence Jones hands and he hit the jumper.
- Russell was out of control when he checked back in in the second quarter. He made some bad passes, mishandled the ball, weird shot selection and missed a few at the rim. He settled down as the game went on, but you hate to see that after what the bench gave him when he was off the floor. I might have whispered out loud “put the bench back in”.
- I feel really bad for Anthony Davis with how the Pelicans season is going this year. The guy is absolutely amazing and it’s tough to see some poor player evaluation and roster management by the front office and injuries putting him in this situation.
- Russ got a tech for shoving Jrue Holiday. Thought he was fouled, got mad, committed a dumb foul. I hate when he does that.
- Russ missed a three, ran right after it, grabbed the rebound and scored. If he could just do that on all his missed 3’s, I wouldn’t mind him taking so many.
- Lauvergne is a great communicator on D. He’s always talking and getting players in the right position. He also brought great energy out there tonight on both ends of the floor which I think helped spark the Thunder bench and lead them to their solid performance.
- I like this play a lot
- Tyreke Evans long 2’s would infuriate me if I was a Pelicans fan. Like take a step back or take it to the hole.
Next up: Friday night in Boston at 6:30 CST