Thunder Hold On Late, Escape Pelicans 122-116
In what should’ve been an easy win on Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the injury-depleted Pelicans made the Thunder work harder than expected for their fourth-straight victory. Oklahoma City led by as many as 22 before New Orleans (who were without three starters, including Anthony Davis) charged in the fourth quarter and cut OKC’s lead to five with 1:38 remaining. Thankfully for the Thunder, that’s as close as the Pelicans would get, with Russell Westbrook and company taking a 122-116 final score to move to 30-18 on the season.
Westbrook put on an absolute passing clinic, finishing with 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 16 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season. Paul George had a very cerebral 23 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. Steven Adams had another brilliant offensive outing that left everyone wondering why he doesn’t get more touches — finishing with 20 points, and 13 rebounds.
The Brodie. With 13/8/11/2 on 5-of-9 shooting in the first two quarters, tonight’s first half was one of Russ’ most dominant and intelligent halves of basketball he’s played all year. He was just spectacular in this game, wrapping up with 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 16 assists on 9-of-19 shooting and 1-of-3 from deep.
Terrance Ferguson was pushing early on. If players are going to play him close, he needs to read the court and not be trigger-happy. That’s his next step as a player. He did a good job making adjustments after the first quarter to pump fake, drive, and read the floor. He finished with 14 points on 2-of-8 shooting from long range.
Jerami Grant is so good on both ends, but he also has a lot of room to grow. One major mistake he’s been making for the past two months is how jump happy he is. He has to realize he’s longer and can jump higher than nearly anyone he’s guarding, so he can jump after the offensive player and still block the shot/heavily contest. Pump fakes have got him off his feet too easily. (He finished with 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting)
Defense. OKC still has some things to fix on defense. They are so aggressive on drives to the basket and PnR’s that they leave shooters open and have to commit too hard on closeouts. That leaves OKC at a 4-on-5 disadvantage. If the Thunder can maintain discipline to still bring aggressive help, but keep bodies on shooters, they’ve got another level to get to yet.
Bench Woes. Just a horrible stretch for the lineup of Schroder-Nader-George-Patterson-Noel to start the fourth quarter. Switching is a fine technique against certain teams, but an Alvin Gentry coached team is too smart on offense to not target to the 1-5 mismatch in the post if you switch. Billy needs to adjust these things better. It’s been a very strong season from the Thunder’s head man, but I’d like to see him make these adjustments sooner. If you’re going to switch, figure out a way to create a scram to get the 1 off the 5 and onto the 3.
The Other Guys. Jrue Holiday led the Pelicans with 22 points, nine rebounds, and 13 assists — scoring 12 of his points in the fourth quarter to make it interesting. He was joined in double-figures by Darius Miller (21), Jahlil Okafor (18), Cheick Diallo (16), Elfrid Payton (15), and Frank Jackson (12). They outscored OKC 72-66 in the paint.