Game Recap: OKC 117, NOP 112
By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com
THE BIG PICTURE
The Thunder burst out to a strong start on Sunday, but had to hold off a strong push by the Pelicans in the fourth quarter to secure its 117-112 lead. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder in scoring with a game-high 31 points, but it was rookie two-way Aaron Wiggins who turned heads with his career-high 24 points.
MOMENTS FROM THE 48
The Thunder led for virtually the entire contest, ahead by as many as 17 points in the first half. Going into the final frame however, the Thunder held onto a slight eight-point cushion against the Pelicans despite a 13-point effort by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the third quarter. New Orleans opened the fourth stanza on an 11-to-2 run to take its first lead since the first minutes of the ball game.
The Pelicans’ advantage didn’t last long as the poised, young Thunder quickly answered with a 3-pointer on the following possession to regain a one-point advantage and the hold on the ball game. New Orleans continued to put pressure on the Thunder throughout the frame, but for every punch the Pelicans threw, OKC answered with a swing of its own.
“We stayed composed, made plays that needed to be made and ultimately we did enough to win,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “We did the right things down the stretch, and for the most part of the game to give ourselves that outcome.”
Defense to Offense
Thunder burst out to a blistering hot start that began on the defensive end. In the opening four minutes of action, the Thunder forced a pair of Pelicans’ turnovers that turned into five points on the other end of the floor. The early energy translated into a 13-0 run before New Orleans’ head coach Willie Green called the first timeout of the game with his team down 3-15.
The momentum didn’t stop there. By the end of the frame, the Thunder had generated 12 points off New Orleans’ seven turnovers. Heading into the second quarter, the Thunder led 32-18 which marked the largest lead after the first quarter this season for OKC.
For the night, the Thunder generated 14 points off the Pelicans 11 turnovers. Thunder wing and defensive ace Lu Dort led the way with four steals as Théo Maledon registered two of his own off the bench. Gilgeous-Alexander led all players with a season-high three blocks.
“I thought we dove into the game on that end of the floor, especially on Ingram and Graham” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “We knew those guys were coming in the game with a lot of confidence, they've been playing really well and aggressively.”
Wiggins Sets Career High
Rookie assist leader Josh Giddey stood four feet behind the 3-point line surveying the floor. In an instant, the 19-year-old floated a lob, high up above the rim. Waiting at the basket was fellow rookie Aaron Wiggins who skied for the ball and guided it off the backboard where it deflected perfectly through the rim. That was the type of offensive night it was for Aaron Wiggins who finished with a career-high 24 points – the most point scored by a Thunder rookie this season. In his fifth career NBA start, Wiggins shot 8-for-10 from the field including a perfect 6-for-6 from inside the paint.
“It was really fun for me just being out there,” said Wiggins. “I was just trying to find ways to make sure I was contributing on both sides of the floor. I felt like I did a pretty good job and happy to have the win.”
“I knew from day one that Wiggs could hoop. He has game,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I think him going to the [G-League] just built his confidence a little bit, got to work on some things, and now he’s applying them to the NBA game and I expected that from him.”
Rookie of the Month Recognition
Prior to tip off, Thunder rookie Josh Giddey was honored with his Rookie of the Month Award. The Australia native was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November. Against the Pelicans, Giddey finished the night with a 10-rebound, 10-assist double-double – his second point-rebound double-double of the season.
THE LAST WORD
“Every experience, every little thing you go through you’ve got to try and learn from it, take away whatever you can and grow. Add it to whatever you're going through because you want to live in the present day, but you also want to have hope for the future. I just try to take every single thing that I go through and make sure I learn from it and just continue to grow.”— Aaron Wiggins on how all of his experiences thus far have helped him
OKC leaves for a West Coast back-to-back to face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday and the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The team will then return to Oklahoma City on Friday for its annual New Year’s Eve game where it will face off against the New York Knicks.