Thunder (45-33), Pelicans (43-34)
What little breathing room New Orleans had left in the Western Conference playoff race got a bit smaller Sunday, as Oklahoma City dealt the Pelicans a home defeat in a key head-to-head matchup. New Orleans started quickly, going up by 10 in the first half, but Oklahoma City rode a big second quarter from Paul George to take the lead. In the second half, the Thunder kept the Pelicans at arm’s length, eventually going up by double digits themselves. A late surge by New Orleans was too late, as OKC posted its first win over NOLA this season in three tries.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
New Orleans tracked down a loose ball down by five points with time ticking down, but a three-point attempt rattled in and out, leading to Oklahoma City dribbling out the clock. While that was the final play, the Thunder had made it nearly impossible to come back by taking about 24 seconds off the game clock on the previous possession. Despite Carmelo Anthony misfiring on a mid-range jumper, the Thunder had a successful possession by milking valuable time.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Ian Clark deposited 16 points in 21 minutes off the bench, doing so in extremely efficient fashion, making six of his seven shots from the field. He connected on all three of his three-point attempts. Darius Miller also played well off the bench, scoring 14 points on 5/11 shooting.
QUOTES TO NOTE
“It’s hard to beat any team when you have 21 turnovers. If you have that many turnovers against a quality team, then obviously you’re going to struggle, especially a team that’s that good (as Oklahoma City).” – Alvin Gentry on the role that turnovers played in the New Orleans loss
“It was carelessness. A lot of them were unforced.” – Anthony Davis (25 points, 11 rebounds) on the team’s 21 turnovers
“I think we’ve got to play a little more loose. We’re playing a little bit tight, and I think that’s the reason we turned it over a little bit. We’ve got to get back to enjoying the game. We’ve got to embrace this situation and play the way we’re capable of playing.” – Gentry on what Pelicans need to do after dropping the last four games
“I’ve coached where you’re playing without any purpose at all, and that’s really not that good. To be in a position where you’re playing for something, you’ve got to embrace that. But you’ve got to play loose, play as hard as I can and give everything I’ve got. That’s all as a coaching staff we will ever ask.” – Gentry on New Orleans needing to stay positive as a team that remains in position to reach the West playoffs
BY THE NUMBERS
17: Oklahoma City turnovers, which was a good number to force by New Orleans, but the Pelicans only converted those into 13 points.
60-47: Thunder advantage in the middle quarters. George did much of his damage there, en route to a 27-point game
28: New Orleans assists, led by nine by Rajon Rondo. Jrue Holiday added eight.