Panzura postgame wrap: Pelicans 109, Thunder 95
Oklahoma City made NBA history Thursday by using a starting lineup that reportedly was the youngest ever in the league’s 70-plus seasons, averaging roughly 20 years and six months. But as New Orleans head coach Stan Van Gundy pointed out pregame, in some ways the Pelicans are nearly as young as the Thunder.
Twenty-year-old Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, 23, powered New Orleans to a double-digit halftime advantage and alternated strong quarters after intermission. They combined to score 51 points. Off the bench, New Orleans rookies Kira Lewis Jr. and Naji Marshall, as well as second-year pros Jaxson Hayes and Wenyen Gabriel, gave the visitors a first-half spark in a back-to-back.
Combined with Golden State's loss at Minnesota, New Orleans cut its deficit on the final play-in spot to three games. The Warriors and Pelicans have one game each prior to a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back between the squads in the Crescent City. On Saturday, Golden State is at Houston, while New Orleans visits Minnesota.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Williamson threw down a dunk midway through the fourth quarter, giving New Orleans a 96-76 lead. The Pelicans were able to stretch an 11-point lead through three periods into a much more comfortable margin. Williamson scored 10 final-stanza points.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Ingram was a mid-range maestro, sinking more shots from that area of the floor than in perhaps any game of the 2020-21 season. He finished with 24 points on 10/20 shooting, setting the tone with eight points in the first quarter to stake the guests to a 31-20 edge. Van Gundy also credited Ingram for his defensive performance, with the Pelicans putting Ingram on Darius Bazley after Bazley started the night in strong fashion.
BY THE NUMBERS
5-5: New Orleans record in its last 10 road games, a vast improvement from starting 6-14 away from the Big Easy. Among the five most recent road defeats, three were by slim margins at Washington, New York and Denver, additional evidence of the greater competitiveness.
5/29: New Orleans three-point shooting. The Pelicans won for the third time this season while making five or fewer treys, including victories over San Antonio and Philadelphia.
REVISITING THREE KEYS TO VICTORY PRESENTED BY FANDUEL
Oklahoma City put this to the ultimate test by debuting a player, Gabriel Deck, who had never even practiced with the Thunder. Meanwhile, Charlie Brown – a second-year guard, not the Peanuts character – was appearing in just his second game with OKC. The largely unknown Thunder rotation shot just 38 percent from the field Thursday.
BE STRONGER WITH THE BALL
After committing 21 turnovers Wednesday in Denver, the Pelicans were much better at protecting the rock in Oklahoma, recording just 12.
SOONER STATE SHUTDOWN
OKC only scored 80 points at home vs. New Orleans on New Year’s Eve and struggled again this time to generate offense. The Thunder only had 43 points at halftime Thursday. Two of the six times New Orleans has allowed less than 100 points in a game occurred at Chespeake Energy Arena.