Oklahoma City’s Big Three scored 65 points but it wasn’t enough to overcome Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night. Oklahoma City fell 118-114 inside the Smoothie King Center.
The Thunder fall to third in the Western Conference with the loss. Denver and Golden State remain ahead of Oklahoma by percentage points. The Thunder are now 17-9 on the season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder outshot the Pelicans from the field and 3-point line, Paul George had a double-double, four different players had 20 points or more, and the bench outscored New Orleans 36-18—but in spite of all that, it was the Pelicans who walked away with a win.
New Orleans needed only four made three’s to beat the Thunder and that’s because the Pelicans did most of its damage inside the paint. Oklahoma City couldn’t keep the Pelicans out of the lane, leading to New Orleans owning a 74-48 advantage in the paint. Anthony Davis did most of the work, dropping 44 points on 16-of-32 shooting from the field. Davis scored 24 of his points with Steven Adams as his primary defender. Davis went 12-of-16 in the restricted area against the Thunder.
Though, Thunder fans are more of the side where if Russell Westbrook took 32 shots and the Thunder won, he’d be hearing it from the cheap seats that he took too many shots. That’s not what we heard on the ESPN broadcast on Wednesday night about Davis.
The Pelicans not only dominated the paint, but they dominated the glass thanks to Davis and Julius Randle. With the two New Orleans big men going to work on the boards, they were able to keep possessions alive that led to costly second-chance points. As a team, the Thunder finished with 39 rebounds. Davis and Randle combined for 30 boards between the two. The Pelicans finished with 56 as a team.
If the points in the paint and the ineffective rebounding weren’t enough, the Thunder continued their shooting woes at the free throw line. The Thunder currently ranks 27th in the league at the charity stripe, shooting 71.2 percent as team. Wednesday night against the Pelicans, Oklahoma City shot 63 percent, making only 17 of its 27 attempts. The Pelicans finished 24-of-30, hitting 80 percent from the free throw line.
Yet, despite how underwhelming the Thunder played for the majority of the game, the Pelicans could never quite shut the door. With two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Thunder down seven, Oklahoma City’s defense came up big. Russell Westbrook forced two turnovers on back-to-back possessions that led to back-to-back buckets for the Thunder, giving Oklahoma City hope down two points.
It would be as close as the Thunder would get, as Oklahoma City would walk away with empty possessions on its final two trips, despite getting stops and despite Randle missing a pair of free throws with 10.1 seconds left to give the Thunder another shot.
Westbrook drove the lane on the Thunder’s final possession before kicking it out to Alex Abrines for the win, who clanged it off the front of the rim.
On a night where so many things went wrong for the Thunder, it wasn’t all terrible. Paul George continued to make a case for his name to be included in the MVP discussion, dropping his ninth double-double of the season, scoring 25 points while adding in 11 rebounds and five assists. Dennis Schröder provided yet another spark off the bench, delivering 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting, 4-of-11 from deep. Steven Adams, who was nearly perfect in the first half, finished with 20 points and six rebounds. As nice as all these things are, the Thunder had a chance to win a game that it shouldn’t have lost. The schedule is only going to get harder from here. In fact, it’s the hardest remaining schedule in the league. It’s hard to swallow games like these, especially when the Pelicans were down a few starters.
But much like the Chicago loss last week, this is one you put in the rearview and move on. The Thunder travel to Denver this Friday to play the Nuggets. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m.
Keys to the Game
Limit Davis: F
Can you really limit Davis? Nah. However, you shouldn’t be giving up 44 points to the big man with the likes of Steven Adams and Co. around. Davis seems to always have a big game against the Thunder. Even if you give up 35 to him, the Thunder win this game convincingly.
Smart Shooting: D
Oklahoma City took a season high 42 three-pointers. They relied on way too many in the fourth and in the end, it was their undoing. Oklahoma City has to be smarter about their shot attempts. They seemed to be scared of attacking the paint and settled for contested threes, especially in the second half.
Good Russ: D
Russell Westbrook struggled from the free throw line (2-of-5) and turned it over a lot (seven times to be exact). While he still had a nice line (20-6-7), he took bad shots and put the Thunder in precarious situations. It’s going to happen from time to time. We’ve come to expect this. Oklahoma City just needs it to start being more consistent. We haven’t seen MVP Russ too often this season. We miss that guy.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!