The Oklahoma City (33-22) tied a franchise record on Thursday evening as they defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118 for the 8th consecutive win on the road.
The Thunder won’t have a chance to set a new franchise record with a 9th consecutive road win until they take on the Bulls in Chicago on February 25th, but I think they are more than okay with it as they are looking at a full week of rest headed into All-Star Weekend.
Efficiency is King
In today’s NBA, analysts are hyper-focused on efficiency, and the stats don’t lie: the more efficient a team is, the more successful they are in the long run. Well, tonight was an efficient night for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Offensively, the Thunder could not have done much better. They managed to shoot 50.0% overall from the field—including an astounding 48.1% from three, the second-highest mark for OKC all season. From the free throw line, the Thunder knocked down 18-of-22 shots (81.8%), and they did a great job at taking care of the ball as they turned it over just 7 times, which is good for OKC’s third-lowest total of the season.
6 different players scored in double figures, which is becoming more of the norm for the Thunder. Danilo Gallinari led the way with 29 points, Dennis Schröder poured in 22 points, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 17 points, Chris Paul tallied 14 points, Steven Adams had 11 points, and Mike Muscala came in for just 9 minutes to score 11 points.
Defensively, the Thunder had a tough time keeping New Orleans from hitting shots. Despite Zion Williamson scoring a career-high 32 points, OKC was able to slow the Pelicans just enough to hold on for the victory. The Thunder managed to force the Pelicans into 17 turnovers—11 of which were OKC steals—and those costly mistakes by New Orleans led to 24 points by Oklahoma City.
Overall, the Thunder has continued to work on the little things (that are actually big things) this season like taking better shots, reducing turnovers, etc. Tonight, these improvements were on full display, and ultimately, it helped OKC to get the win.
Highlight of the Night
Thunder big man Steven Adams finished the night with just 11 points, and while that is nowhere near his career-high of 27 points, he did have a career-night of sorts as he hit the first three-pointer of his NBA career.
Back in October Adams actually hit a corner three on the first play of a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks, but tonight’s three was official, and it was much more spectacular than a regular old corner shot.
With the clock winding down in the first half, Chris Paul received an inbounds pass with under 3 seconds left in the second quarter, and he gave it to Steven Adams streaking down the floor. As he received the pass, and just before he reached half court, Adams let loose a one-handed baseball-style toss that soared toward the goal. Adams leaned to his right almost as if to guide the ball into the net, and it went through perfectly. Adams followed the shot with a shimmy at half court to celebrate, and the rest is history.
Time for Some Rest
The Oklahoma City Thunder has finally reached the All-Star Break, and it could not have come at a better time. While the team is relatively healthy, it’s been a particularly brutal 6 weeks or so of basketball, and after enduring a number of bumps and bruises, the team can appreciate a week off to recoup and get ready for the final 27 games of the season.
Next up for the Thunder is a home matchup against the Denver Nuggets (38-17) on Friday, February 21st. The Nuggets are headed into the break coming off a heartbreaking 120-116 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, which snapped a 4-game winning streak.
Tip-off for that game is at 7 PM, and it will be televised on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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