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Thunder Beat Pelicans, Basketball Gods are Merciless
The most important things that happened tonight were unfortunately injuries to Brian Roberts (ankle) and Tyreke Evans (bone bruise in knee). Each player did not return to the game after his injury. Their statuses will be monitored and we will keep you up to date. More importantly: what in the world did New Orleans do to deserve this?
You can only go so far when your entire offense is being created with tough jumpers and the other team is getting to the foul line and to the rim.
Darius Miller and Alexis Ajinca got off to sizzling starts with their shots, but the Pelicans just could not match the scoring ability of the Thunder. It was an impossible task to beat a team who simply had an advantage at virtually every position. And on offense, the jumpers the Pelicans were making helped obscure how little they were doing on offense, because the Thunder weren’t giving them any easy looks. Sooner or later, it was apparent that the jumpers were going to stop falling and OKC would draw away.. and that’s exactly what happened.
But the Thunder’s starters came onto the court in the 2nd quarter and gave the Pelicans 11 points as they lazily rotated and left some shooters wide open from 3 point land. But that run would also be temporary and inconsequential, as the Thunder turned on their effort for a spurt and once again drew away with the lead. They are a frighteningly athletic unit and some of their fast breaks were just awesome to watch, even as a Pelicans fan. And the Thunder burst out the gates in the 3rd quarter and the game was over.
But there is no shame in losing to a far superior team, and like I mentioned in the preview, I was watching the Pelicans players more than I was watching the team.. and there were some positive takeaways from tonight.
- Austin Rivers had one of his best outings of the season and got the start in order to mitigate the damage Westbrook could do. Of course, Westbrook had a fine game despite Rivers’ best efforts.. there is only so much you can do when he’s hitting that pull up J from midrange. Anyway, Rivers showcased solid control handling the ball, hit a midrange shot, got his teammates involved, hit his 2 looks from deep, and finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.
- Darius Miller once again showed us what he can do when his shot is falling and finished with a career-high 18 points in 30 minutes. However, he also finished with 0 rebounds, and it continually perplexes me how he manages to play so many minutes without rebounding more. But it was a good game for Darius, who I thought Monty would start on the bench in favor of Aminu. At one point, Durant (who was not interested in defending tonight) slumped his shoulders after Darius made a tough shot, as if to say, “who the hell is this guy?” Keep shooting, buddy.
- James Southerland made his debut for the Pelicans and had a solid night. He’s tall, his jumper looks good, and most importantly, he was poised tonight- didn’t rush any opportunities, didn’t look nervous out there. He did get caught cheating WAY too far on a Butler corner 3, but I don’t want to pick on him too much for that. He also blocked a shot and gathered a few rebounds. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not in garbage time (where he got all of his minutes), but I came away feeling positive about Southerland. It’s another storyline to watch to close the season.
- Jeff Withey had an inefficient 4-12 night, but continues to show glimpses of skill. He put the ball on the floor a couple of times and took it to the rack, with one trip earning a basket + foul and the other shot rattling out off the glass. But he played against Serge Ibaka most of the night and just couldn’t match Ibaka.. which, of course, is understandable.
- Alexis Ajinca had a hot start but cooled off as the game progressed. He struggles to finish in traffic, even among smaller players.
- Anthony Morrow had an off night, but wasn’t getting much room to operate. Oklahoma City was keenly aware of where he was at all times.
- Luke Babbitt made a couple of shots tonight, but it is becoming more and more evident that his flat-footed release will be a problem against hard closeouts. He is not quick enough to do damage off the dribble and teams fly out at his shot with that knowledge in mind: they have no fear of what will happen if he pump-fakes them.
- Al Farouq Aminu played limited minutes tonight and didn’t really make much of an impact. As I said earlier, I was surprised Monty didn’t start him.
There are only 3 games left, so break out your rabbit’s feet and hope that no one else gets hurt! Almost there, peeps.
I've heard this but I think it's more luck than anything. Many times during the season, Tyreke and Davis have come back from injuries much more quickly than expected, for a small example.
OKC drew a chalk line around the Pelicans..crime scene tape surrounds the area…OKC getting ready for the playoffs and wasted no time devouring the Pelican…they ate the bird raw…i heard the screams.