Russell Westbrook had arguably his best game of the season on Thursday night, but it was not enough as the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 131-122.
The Thunder took the lead early and were on top for the first 5 minutes of the game, but after leading 13-9, OKC allowed New Orleans to score 11 straight points to take a 20-13 lead midway through the first. The Thunder was able to answer, though, thanks to 8 points from Nerlens Noel off the bench and 7 points apiece from Paul George and Russell Westbrook. OKC ended the period on a 12-4 run for a 31-31 stalemate headed into the second quarter.
While the first quarter featured runs by both teams, the second quarter was a lot of back and forth between the Thunder and Pelicans. Russell Westbrook found his shot early as he had 22 points at the half while shooting a team-best 9-14 (64.3%) from the field, including 3-6 (50.0%) from 3, along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Paul George added in 17 points, and Nerlens Noel had a first-half double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but the Pelicans had the 66-63 advantage at the half.
Announced at the start of the third quarter, Anthony Davis would miss the remainder of the game for the Pelicans due to a left shoulder injury, but that did not stop New Orleans from getting off to a solid start in the second half. Less than 4 minutes in, the Pelicans took a 79-69 lead, their largest of the night, forcing Billy Donovan to call a timeout for Oklahoma City.
New Orleans was able to push the lead to 17 a little over midway through the period, and despite Westbrook adding in another 11 points to bring his total to 33 through three quarters, Oklahoma City still trailed 101-89 headed into the final frame.
The Pelicans led by double digits for the majority of the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter before the Thunder finally started covering some ground. Russell Westbrook continued on his tear as he eventually racked up his 11th consecutive triple-double, which is essentially what kept OKC hanging around, and despite cutting the deficit to 3 points on a number of occasions in the final minutes, the Thunder was not able to complete the comeback, and the Pelicans picked up the 131-122 win at home.
Thunder Player of the Game
Russell Westbrook played arguably his best game of the season as he picked up his NBA record 11th consecutive triple-double with 44 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. He shot 18-30 (60.0%) from the field, tied for his 3rd-highest field goal % for the entire season, including 4-12 (33.3%) from 3. The most impressive part of his scoring barrage was his ability to get to the rim and finish. Also, he was only awarded 4 free throws, and he knocked down all of them.
A Couple of Quick Thoughts
- Nerlens Noel Continues to Impress: Picking up Nerlens Noel in the offseason appeared at first glance to be a great decision by Thunder GM Sam Presti. Noel is a long, athletic center, and he plays the type of basketball that the Thunder came into the season wanting to play. 57 games into the season, Noel has proven himself to be just the type of guy that OKC needs coming off the bench, and tonight he put his abilities on full display as he racked up a season-high 22 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 2 steals. Noel is going to be key to the Thunder’s success moving forward the rest of the season, so regardless of how many minutes plays, he needs to stay ready.
- PG Struggled: It goes without saying that Paul George shot about as poorly from three as you could expect from him. His 3-17 (17.6%) performance from beyond the perimeter is his 2nd-worst performance of the season, bested only by his 0-10 (0.0%) night against the Charlotte Hornets on November 1st. Only 11 times this season has he shot lower than 30% from 3, and he has been on fire lately, so don’t expect this to be anything but an anomaly for him.
- Time to Rest: Aside from the guys participating in All-Star Weekend, the Thunder gets a full week off before their next game next Friday night. With the season 2/3 of the way completed, a break like this will help guys get healthy and could help the team to push hard the rest of the way, and some guys (I’m looking at you, Steven Adams) could definitely use the extra rest.
Who’s Ready for a Break?
The Thunder is officially on break because of NBA All-Star Weekend and does not have another game until next Friday, February 22nd, when they will host the Utah Jazz at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
As for All-Star Weekend, the Thunder has several players participating. Rookie Hamidou Diallo will participate in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest Saturday night. He will be competing against Miles Bridges of the Charlotte Hornets, John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks, and Dennis Smith Jr. of the New York Knicks. The contest starts at 7 PM CT and will be televised on TNT.
On Sunday, Paul George and Russell Westbrook will participate in the All-Star Game as members of Team Giannis. George is a starter, and Westbrook will play off the bench. The game tips off at 7:20 PM CT and will be televised on TNT.
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