Thunder Closes Strong, Holds off Pelicans

The Oklahoma City Thunder played another game down to the wire, but they were able to pick up a 109-104 win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at home.

The Rundown

The Thunder opened up tonight’s game with a lot more energy than Wednesday’s outing, and Steven Adams led the way early as he made his first 3 shots and finished the quarter with 10 points. Danilo Gallinari added in 7 of his own, but Brandon Ingram and Jahlil Okafor combined for 20 for the Pelicans. At the end of the period, the Thunder led 34-26.

OKC was able to push the lead back to double digits early in the second quarter thanks mostly to Abdel Nader. Nader continued his strong play from Wednesday as he came off the bench to put up 13 points in less than 10 minutes of play in the first half, and by halftime, 4 different Thunder players had at least 9 points (Adams, Nader, Gallinari, and Dennis Schröder). At the half, OKC led New Orleans 62-53.

The third quarter started in typical Thunder fashion as the Pelicans scored 5 quick ones to cut OKC’s lead to 3, and at the 7-minute mark of the period, Josh Hart hit a 3 for New Orleans to give the Pels a 70-69 lead. The problems continued for the Thunder as they tallied 6 turnovers in the third quarter alone, and at the end of the period, New Orleans led OKC 84-79.

Dennis Schröder hit a 3 to open up the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 2, but the Pelicans were actually able to extend the lead to 8 to make it 92-84 with 9:53 left in the game. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Thunder started to light it up as a 13-1 run gave them a 97-93 lead with 7 minutes to go. The Pelicans answered with a 9-3 run of their own, however, to take a 102-100 lead with a little over 5 minutes to go.

The Thunder offense stalled initially, but the defense kept them in it. New Orleans could not buy a bucket, and over the final 4 minutes of the game, OKC was able to outscore the Pelicans 9-2—highlighted by a Steven Adams dagger dunk—to run away with the 109-104 victory.

Thunder Player of the Game

Abdel Nader performed well for the second game in a row, but this time, it was in real game time minutes, not garbage time of a blowout. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the field—including 4-of-5 (80.0%) from 3. He added 3 rebounds and 2 assists, but it was his hot hand in the second quarter that kept the Thunder afloat.

I’m not convinced just yet that Nader deserves more than a few rotation minutes here and there, but if he can play as efficiently as he did tonight, then by all means, put the man on the floor.

Another One Against the Pelicans

The Thunder is headed back on the road as they travel to New Orleans to play the Pelicans again, this time on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 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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