After Westbrook Goes Down in Third, Thunder Holds On For Fifth Straight Win

The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up their fifth consecutive win of the season on Monday night as they defeated the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 122-116.

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Rapid Recap

The Thunder got off to a hot start against the Pelicans in the first quarter. Oklahoma City made 9 of its first 10 shots and had no 3-point attempts as they built 18-13 lead early. Jerami Grant poured in eight points early to make an early impact.

The Thunder finished the quarter 15-21 (71.4%) from the field, including 3-5 (60%) from three, and Paul George was a major contributor as he went 3-5 from the floor and 2-3 from three, including a fancy stepback.

After 12 minutes of play, the Thunder were on top 36-28.

Oklahoma City looked as if they might run away with the game in the second quarter much like they did in Washington the other night against the Wizards, but New Orleans fought back early with a 5-0 run to trim the deficit and keep it close.

The Pelicans tied things up at 50-50 with just under five minutes left in the half before taking going on a 7-0 run to take a 59-54 lead. The Thunder was able to trim the deficit, but at the half, they trailed 63-62.

The third quarter featured some ups and downs for the Thunder as the Pelicans kept the game close for the first five minutes of the second half until Oklahoma City took over with a 74-73 lead. The Thunder was able to extend their lead to 14 by the end of the quarter, but not before Russell Westbrook went down with a bad left ankle sprain.

The Thunder had a seven-point lead when Russ went down and was forced to leave the game, and they were able to extend it to 14, thanks heavily to a pair of dunks in transition by Hamidou Diallo.

Steven Adams capped the strong finish to the third with a block at the buzzer to maintain Oklahoma City’s 100-86 lead headed into the final frame of the game.

The Pelicans were able to inch their way back in the game early in the fourth as they started the quarter with a 6-0 run. They were able to trim the deficit to two with just 23 seconds left, but it wasn’t enough. Oklahoma City was able to come away with the win thanks heavily to Dennis Schröder scoring 16 of his season-high 22 points once he checked in for the injured Westbrook, and the Thunder were able to hold on to move to 5-4 on the season.

Thunder Player of the Game

After Russell Westbrook was forced to leave the game with a left ankle sprain deep in the third quarter, the Thunder could have easily spiraled downward and lost the game. Dennis Schröder played a key part in making sure that didn’t happen as he checked in for Westbrook and picked up right where Russ left off. Schröder finished the game with a season-high 22 points on 9-16 (56.3%) from the field, 1-3 from 3 (33.3%), and 3-3 (100%) from the free throw line. He also chipped in three rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Schröder has worked his way into the hearts of Thunder fans, and performances like this are exactly why.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • Get Well Soon, Russ: After going down late in the third quarter with what was eventually diagnosed as a left ankle sprain, Thunder fans everywhere held their breath and said their prayers as they waited to see just how bad the injury was. More details have yet to be released on the situation, and I can’t help but wonder how long Westbrook will miss. No matter how long it is, any time at all could cost the Thunder a win here and there, so the sooner Russ is back in the lineup, the better. On the bright side, Dennis Schröder is playing some of his best basketball lately, and this could be an opportunity for him to shoulder even more of the load for the team.
  • Free Throws Are Going to be an Issue: All season long, Oklahoma City has struggled at the charity stripe, and tonight was no different. The Thunder finished the game 22-31 (71.0%) from the free throw line, which is above their season average, but missed free throws kept this game much closer than it could have been. When the Thunder plays better competition in the future, missed free throws could very well cost Oklahoma City the game, and they cannot afford to keep moving forward at this rate.
  • Defense is Key: As has been the case with this team for quite some time now, the defense is going to be the primary component to success for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is leading the league in steals with 11.7 per game, and they force opponents into 19.2 turnovers per game, the best in the NBA. Forcing teams into making mistakes gives the Thunder the ability to get out in and run in transition, and tonight, Oklahoma City was able to score 18 fast break points. Defense leading to easy offense is the best way for this team to be successful moving forward.

Look Out Cleveland

The Oklahoma City Thunder are heading back out on the road, and this time they are going to Cleveland for a Wednesday night matchup with the Cavaliers. The Cavs have had a rough go of things since the departure of Lebron James, and they are 1-9 on the season so far. Tip-off is set for 6 PM, and the game will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.

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