It was another day at the office for the Oklahoma City Thunder (7-9). Sadly that is not an endorsement for great play recently.
After an early 19-point lead, Oklahoma City fell back down to earth as the New Orleans Pelicans (9-8) fought back and eventually overcame the struggling Thunder 114-107. Oklahoma City surrendered 58 points in the paint. All this with Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins ejected from the game at the five-minute mark in the third quarter for elbowing Russell Westbrook in the head.
So much of it started with the ejection of DeMarcus Cousins. With five minutes left in the third quarter, Cousins raised his elbows near Westbrook’s face after grabbing a rebound, and the Thunder guard dropped to the floor holding his head. Officials reviewed the film and decided a flagrant-2 was the right call.
At the time, the Thunder held a comfortable 76-72 lead. However, once Cousins went to the locker room, the Pelicans went to work. New Orleans turned on a 12-5 run to take a 83-81 lead with 2:12 left in the quarter.
The Pelicans were in complete control after that.
“It’s the same story line,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We go up 20 and teams work it down. We can’t allow that.”
One again, the Thunder start strong and struggle after they balloon their lead to double-digits. The Thunder began the night 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and shot 7-of-30 the rest of the contest.
“It’s different things,” Billy Donovan said. “The constant is the lead’s evaporating, but its not the same thing. Tonight there were too many fouls, sometimes it’s shot selection or turnovers.”
New Orleans attempted 36 free throws to Oklahoma City’s 26.
Westbrook had his fifth triple-double of the season with 22 points, 12 assists and 16 rebounds. His 31 percent from the floor was a glaring flaw on an otherwise solid outing for the reigning MVP. Paul George continued his stellar defensive play with five steals, four in the first half, and added 20 points.
Carmelo Anthony struggled throughout most of the middle of the game but finished with 19 points on 19 shots.
For Oklahoma City, the “it is still to early to panic” time frame is running out. With this loss, the Thunder are 16 games into an 82 game season, 20 percent of the way done. If Oklahoma City is going to seriously contend for a playoff run, the wins need to start happening in bunches sooner rather than later.
On the flip side of it all, Anthony Davis ate the Thunder after the ejection. Davis went 8-of-8 at the line, scoring 16 points over the last 17 minutes. For the game, Davis finished with 36 points and 15 rebounds.
“There’s a few [coincidences in losses],” Westbrook said. “Teams get confidence. On the road you can’t do that.”
Andre Roberson was negative-10 on the court in only four minutes. Westbrook went 1-of-8 during that stretch. The Big Three were more like the little three trouble. Oklahoma City’s trio went 4-of-16 from the floor, turning it over six times, including 4-of-12 from three.
All was not terrible for the Thunder. Jerami Grant continues his improved play off the bench, scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Steven Adams was a factor early on and in the fourth with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Despite some nice numbers sprinkled amongst the box score, the Thunder continue to play amazing basketball in spurts with disorganized stretches haunting the team the rest of the game. It has now become a trend, a trend the Thunder want nothing to do with.
Oklahoma City saw their lead in the first quarter balloon to 25-6 when Alex Abrines nailed a three-pointer. New Orleans responded with a 28-9 run of their own to take their first lead at 38-37 with 8:39 remaining until halftime.
The Thunder led 65-57 at halftime.
Oklahoma City will have to regroup quickly. The Golden State Warriors make their way to the Chesapeake Arena Wednesday and the Thunder will have to fix a lot of problems if they are going to compete with the world champs.
Oklahoma City now is 0-8 in games decided by seven points or less. It’s the sixth time out of nine losses the Thunder have blown a double-digit lead in a loss.
“You can talk,” Westbrook said. “Talking don’t do anything at this point. You got to go out and play. You can talk as much as you want to, but guys got to take personal pride and understand how important it is to go out and compete and not take it for granted.”We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!