Postgame wrap: Thunder 122, Pelicans 116

Thunder (5-4), Pelicans (4-6)
by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

OKLAHOMA CITY – On paper at least, New Orleans faced its most beatable opponent Monday during a challenging five-game West road trip, while seeking its first victory. For two-plus quarters, the Pelicans seemed to have a reasonable shot at breaking through and avoiding a winless excursion, but the Thunder used a late-third quarter surge to create separation. Despite All-Star guard Russell Westbrook exiting the game with a third-quarter ankle injury, Oklahoma City maintained its lead in the fourth quarter, registering its fifth straight win after an 0-4 start. The Pelicans cut their deficit to as little as four in the final minute, but couldn’t cap a late comeback attempt.

Turnovers proved extremely costly for New Orleans, which committed 18 through three quarters, leading to 28 OKC points.

Following the game, Alvin Gentry emphasized having patience as New Orleans awaits the imminent return of starting point guard Elfrid Payton. The Pelicans went 4-1 with Payton in uniform for the first five games, but haven’t won since.

“Guys, we’ve got 72 games left,” Gentry said. “We’re disappointed in a road trip like this – in the West, you don’t want to have any kind of losing streak – but we’re going to stay at an even keel. We’re going to compete at a high level, get better and correct the mistakes.”

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

Jrue Holiday misfired on a three-point attempt, giving Oklahoma City possession and Paul George two free throws with 11 seconds left. George connected on both to give OKC a six-point edge. New Orleans turned the ball on the next possession, while trying to make an inbound pass.

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

When New Orleans wasn’t turning the ball over, it was often getting the rock into the hands of Julius Randle, who was a handful and then some for the Oklahoma City interior defense. Randle repeatedly put his head down and drove to the basket, contributing a super-efficient offensive performance, at 10/10 from the field and 4/4 from the foul line (a nice bounceback from his 4/12 outing in San Antonio two days earlier). He also canned a pair of three-pointers to finish with a team-best 26 points. Randle added eight rebounds in his 28 minutes of action.

POSITIONAL FOCUS: SMALL FORWARD

For a second straight game, Wesley Johnson started at the position, in Monday's case at least partly because Oklahoma City uses many big lineups that feature wings with length, such as Paul George, Jerami Grant and Terrance Ferguson. None of those three Thunder starters had above-average games shooting-wise, with Johnson frequently matched up vs. George (just 6/17 from field, 23 points). Off the bench, Darius Miller made a nice impact Monday in spacing the floor and connecting from three-point range, sinking three of his four attempts for nine points.

BY THE NUMBERS

21: New Orleans turnovers, resulting in 28 Oklahoma City points. George led the Thunder with four steals, while Grant, Ferguson and Hamadou Diallo each had two.

+12: Team-best plus-minus for Cheick Diallo. In 10 minutes of action, Diallo grabbed four rebounds and contributed defensively with two steals and one block.

+22: Game-best plus-minus for Oklahoma City center Steven Adams, who was extremely effective in the paint. Adams posted 18 points and eight rebounds.

Jrue Holiday with 14 Assists vs. Thunder

Holiday was the top distributor of the game

Game 10: Pelicans at Thunder 11/5/18

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Jrue Holiday with 14 Assists vs. Thunder

Holiday was the top distributor of the game
Nov 5, 2018  |  00:00

Highlights: Julius Randle scores 26 points vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Pelicans Julius Randle tallied 26 points against the Thunder in the team's road trip finale.
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What a shot by Julius Randle in the fourth quarter

Julius Randle with the huge shot
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Jrue to AD Alley-Oop

Jrue Holiday feeds Anthony Davis up high
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Jrue with another drive and finish

Jrue Holiday slashes to the basket for two
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Holiday with the sweet reverse

Jrue Holiday flies across the paint for an awesome reverse
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Julius with the soft touch

Julius Randle drives strong and finishes with the soft touch
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Anthony Davis with the And-1 in the first quarter

AD finishes through the contact and gets to the line
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