The Oklahoma City Thunder held multiple fourth quarter double-digit leads against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, and each time, the Pelicans were able to comeback and make it a game. The Pelicans actually led for the majority of the final few minutes, but the Thunder was able to pull ahead in the final seconds and hold on for a 111-110 victory to move to 3-4 on the season.
The Moose is Loose
Is Mike Muscala’s most improved player so far this season? I’m not so sure about that, but he has without a doubt been the most influential in comparison to his impact from a season ago.
Muscala was especially important in tonight’s win as he led all bench scorers in the game with 18 points as he knocked down 5 threes on just 7 attempts, including three in a row in the fourth quarter.
OKC probably doesn’t win this game if Mike Muscala doesn’t perform like he did. The Pelicans were on a 13-0 run early in the fourth quarter to cut the Thunder’s lead to a single point before Muscala knocked down 3 consecutive threes to push OKC’s lead back to double digits. The Pelicans were able to fight back and eventually take the lead, but Muscala did his part in keeping the Thunder on top.
As the key veteran off the bench, Mike Muscala is going to have plenty of these performances throughout the season, and this likely won’t be the last time that he plays a major role in a victory. Give the big man some credit: despite his diminished role last season, he remained a consummate professional, and when his number is called, he’s ready to go.
The Young Stars Continue to Shine
Rebuild season. Tank season. Call it what you want, but the Thunder is extremely blessed to have the young core that they have. Tonight, it was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley that were particularly impressive.
SGA led with the Thunder in both scoring and assists with 21 points and 9 dimes while adding 5 rebounds and a career-high 5 steals. Shai continues to be the floor general for OKC, and he was clutch in the final moments of the game.
Trailing by two points with under a minute to go, Gilgeous-Alexander was fouled on a three-point attempt, and he knocked down all 3 opportunities at the charity stripe to put OKC up by one.
Darius Bazley didn’t have his best shooting night, knocking down just 8-of-20 (40.0%) from the floor, but he exploded for 15 points in the third quarter on his way to recording his third double-double of the season with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists.
If these two keep up performances like this, they might win quite a few more games than I had originally expected.
Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game
9 points, 1 assist, and 1 rebound is not the most eye-popping stat line of an NBA game, but Luguentz Dort is tonight’s unsung hero because of his classic lockdown defense.
With the final seconds of the game in which the Thunder held a 1-point lead ticking off the clock, Dort was tasked with the responsibility of guarding Brandon Ingram, who was expected to take the final shot for the Pelicans. Unfortunately for New Orleans, Dort was glued to Ingram, and Ingram was forced to throw the ball to Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who missed the shot at the buzzer, finishing off the Thunder’s win.
Some nights Dort is going to score big points and hit big shots, and some nights he won’t, but it’s pretty safe to say that he’s consistently ready to answer the call of defending the opposing team’s best player.