The Oklahoma City Thunder (37-20) entered the All-Star break on a sour note, as the Pelicans took a 131-122 victory on Thursday night in New Orleans. Russell Westbrook recorded his 11th straight triple-double with 44 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists, Paul George added 28 points of his own, and Nerlens Noel contributed a season-high 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting off the OKC bench. However, the Pelicans got 33 points from Julius Randle, 32 more from Jrue Holiday, and led the entire second half en route to snapping the Thunder’s four-game winning streak.
Randle & Holiday. With Anthony Davis contributing just 14 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes of action (he left at halftime due to an arm injury), Julius Randle and Jrue Holiday stepped up in a big way for the Pelicans. Randle dropped 33 points and 11 rebounds on 11-of-21 shooting — with 19 of his points coming in the second half. Holiday posted 32 points, five rebounds, and seven assists on a 12-of-27 shooting clip — scoring 21 of his points after halftime.
All told, Randle and Holiday combined for 40 points on 13-of-28 shooting in the second half, proving to be too much for a Thunder team that scratched their way within three with a little more than two minutes remaining. The Pelicans’ duo combined to score 21 of the final 23 points for New Orleans. Unfortunately for OKC, they were quite fantastic.
The Brodie. Russell Westbrook was very good, recording his 11th straight triple-double in monster fashion with a season-high 44 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists on 18-of-30 shooting (4/12 3P, 4/4 FT). The 12 attempts from downtown were a bit much, though it’s no surprise to see him try to shoot the Thunder back into a game they were losing. He was 4-of-7 from the field for 11 points in the fourth quarter, and nearly had the Thunder in position to steal it late. Good night for the Brodie, despite the loss.
All-Time Scoring List. Speaking of Westbrook, he needed just five points to pass Gary Payton on the Thunder/Sonics all-time scoring list. With 44 tonight, he took over the top spot and added cushion for good measure. He’ll now begin the process of running the number so high that no one ever catches him.
PG. Paul George finished with 28 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, but he cooled down tremendously shooting the basketball. After back-to-back 45+ point scoring efforts, he shot 11-of-29 from the field and made just 3-of-17 from long range. He was due for some regression… but 17 threes is a lot. Would have liked to see him be more aggressive and get to the line, as he only took three freebies all night. (making all three)
Nerlens Noel. Nerlens Noel was massive off the Thunder bench, contributing a season-high 22 points (10/16 FG, 2/2 FT), 13 rebounds, two steals, and a +4 in 22 minutes. His productivity was needed, as Steven Adams (who hasn’t looked quite right lately) mustered just four points on 2-of-5 shooting in 36 minutes. Big Kiwi needs this All-Star break in the worst way in order to get right.
Rough Night from Deep. The Thunder have experienced a recent renaissance period from long range, but came crashing back down to earth in this one. OKC shot 10-of-44 from deep (22.7%) which is obviously not going to get the job done. George was 3-of-17, Westbrook was 4-of-12, and Terrance Ferguson was just 2-of-7.
Last Word. Make no mistake — losing to the Pelicans when Anthony Davis plays just 16 minutes is a bad loss. Every team has them, it’s going to happen, but still — it’s a bad loss.
That being said, this was OKC’s second straight game without a starter in Jerami Grant (ankle) and their sixth man in Dennis Schroder (became a father). While Monday’s triumph may have set the bar unrealistically high, splitting these last two games was probably about as good as fans could have hoped for considering the lack of depth at the moment. It just so happens the Thunder beat the difficult, fourth-place Blazers and then fell flat against the squad currently outside the playoff race. If the expectations were to split the two contests, this was the preferred outcome, I guess. Still three games up on Portland in the Western Conference standings with control of the tie-breaker.
OKC will now hit the All-Star break having won 11 of their last 13 games and with a record of 37-20. This team needs time to heal and also incorporate the newly-acquired Markieff Morris into the rotation — but despite a disappointing loss to the Pelicans, the Thunder are trending in the right direction with 25 games left on the schedule.