The Oklahoma City Thunder moved to 2-4 on the season on Saturday afternoon as they handled the New Orleans Pelicans 115-104 at home. 6 different players for the Thunder scored in double digits, and it made all the difference in the end.
The Thunder got out to a hot start as they scored 10 straight points to take a 10-2 lead just 3 minutes into the game. The Pelicans answer with a 9-4 run of their own after that, and the score stayed close for the remainder of the period.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up 12 points early, and Hamidou Diallo added in 6 of his own, which included a couple of exciting dunks. Darius Bazley hit a shot at the buzzer, and at the end of the first quarter, the Thunder led 33-26.
The Pelicans opened up the second quarter with an 11-4 run just 4 minutes into the period to tie it all up at 37-37 immediately following a questionable goaltending call on Oklahoma City. New Orleans would then take their first lead of the game since starting off 2-0.
The Pelicans would hold on to the lead for most of the period, but the Thunder went small ball with a lineup of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schröder, Hamidou Diallo, and Danilo Gallinari, and it went well. Diallo continued to get to the rim, Gallinari hit a couple of threes, and OKC stormed back to take a 65-60 lead into halftime.
The Thunder took their largest lead of the game at the time when they went up 70-62 just a little over a minute into the second half, but the Pelicans were able to fight back and tie it up at 73-73 a few minutes later.
After exchanging buckets back and forth, the Thunder was able to build the lead back to 8 as they took a 90-82 lead with a couple of minutes left in the third, and they maintained it to head into the final frame leading 94-86.
The Pelicans scored 5 quick points in the first minute of the the fourth quarter, but besides that, the period was rather uneventful, at least for the first five minutes. OKC was then able to extend the lead to double digits as Chris Paul hit two free throws to make it 101-91 with 7:01 to play.
New Orleans would not lie down, though, and 7 straight points for the Pelicans made it a 3-point game with a little over 5 minutes to go. The Thunder answered yet again thanks to a couple of threes—one each from Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari—to put OKC back up by 7 with 4:03 left in the game.
The Pelicans were able to get the deficit to 5 a couple of times, but the Thunder was not going to let this one slip away, and the home team was able to pull out the 115-104 victory.
The Right Players Should Be Taking the Right Shots
For the fourth time this season, the Thunder shot at least 37% from three. The ability to shoot from deep looks much improved from the last few seasons, and tonight was no different as OKC made 15-of-37 (40.5%).
Despite the impressive percentage, the Thunder has some guys that are not pulling their weight, so to speak. Of the 22 total misses from deep, 11 of them came from Dennis Schröder, Mike Muscala, and Hamidou Diallo, who failed to make a single shot beyond the perimeter. All three players are capable shooters at times, but they are all extremely inconsistent.
Dennis Schröder is either hitting or missing; he’s rarely in between.
Mike Muscala has been a solid three-point shooter for his career, but he’s an abysmal 1-for-19 in 5 played games with OKC.
Hamidou Diallo is in just his second year in the NBA, but he’s never been known as a shooter, making just 4-of-24 (16.7%) of his attempts in his rookie year. He is 1-for-10 (10.0%) so far this season.
I’m not saying these guys shouldn’t shoot the ball, but they have to figure something out. Whether it’s simply taking better shots or perhaps taking fewer shots, they are costing the Thunder when they’re putting up high volume but not making any.
By the Numbers
- 15: The number of threes that the Thunder hit. OKC is 2-0 on the season when making at least 15 threes.
- 0: The number of Thunder players that finished with double-digit rebounds in the absence of Steven Adams.
- 78.3: The % that the Thunder shot from the free throw line. That’s 4 consecutive games that OKC has shot at least 70% from the free throw line, something the Thunder did just 3 times all of last season.
- 6: The number of blocks by Nerlens Noel, who was filling in for the injured Steven Adams.
Thunder Player of the Game
In just his sixth NBA appearance, Darius Bazley put in some work to help the Thunder to their second win of the season. Bazley finished the game with 17 points on 5-of-10 (50.0%) from the field, including 3-of-6 (50.0%) from 3. He also grabbed 5 rebounds and played incredible defense, something he has done for pretty much the whole season so far.
Another One at Home
The Thunder will play the final game of the current 3-game home stand on Tuesday evening as they host the Orlando Magic (2-3). Tip-off is set for 7 PM, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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