Prior to the game, they were talking about tickets available for this game and for a moment I thought about it. I wasn't in a position to go, and I knew NO had to chance to win, but I thought it would be fun to see OKC at least, and a chance to check out the 'Smoothie King Center' atmosphere. After I heard about the game on the news, I was shocked...and cringed when I realized I missed an opportunity to see one of the true highlight games for the Pels this year. Who knew that was going to happen!? What fun!
« Game On: Thunder @ Pelicans
Evans Dominates, Pelicans Beat the Thunder
Tyreke Evans the Pelicans brought it right at the heart of the Thunder defense all night long, and it paid off. Evans dropped a career high 41 points and got just enough help from his friends for the Pelicans to pull off a 101-89 upset.
New Orleans came out with some fire in the first quarter, avoiding mistakes and playing fine enough offense that they were able to hang with a Thunder team that on paper they had very little business competing with. Tyreke was driving and kicking all over the place and the Pelicans were content to let it fly from downtown. They attempted 9 bombs in the first quarter, making three of them. Heading into the game their season average was only 15.8 three point attempts per game, so seeing nine early was a nice surprise.
Midway through the second quarter with the Pelicans leading by one, we got some drama! Austin Rivers retaliated to what he felt was a cheap shot by Nick Collison by repeatedly slamming into him. The result was a double ejection for fighting, despite no actual fighting taking place. With Rivers out, the banged up Tyreke Evans was the only point guard type player left on the floor for the Pelicans, placing Monty Williams in yet another difficult situation. Some days he has to wonder if he’s ever going to catch a break out there (spoiler– he caught one!)
It wasn’t long after the dust up that the Pelicans offensive game became a bit frantic to say the least, but despite a few minutes of rather ugly basketball they hung with Thunder. Ajinca in particular was playing well on both ends, and it was his presence in the middle, especially early, that at times solidified an otherwise shaky defense.
At the end of two the Pelicans trailed by just one, fueled largely by Ajinca and Evans. Despite Rivers limited contribution, his impact was felt and he finished with 8 points and 2 assists on just 4 shots. It would have been nice to see him keep playing as he’s been solid as of late, although considering Tyreke’s output follwing Austin’s ejection, perhaps it was for the best.
Westbrook was sitting out for the Thunder, and Durant had a very quiet first half, scoring just 9 points to go with 4 assists. Ibaka added 11, and Caron Butler was on fire, putting up 14 points on a mere 5 shots.
Quarter three began with a few Ajinca free throws, but then Tyreke time started. Without hesitation he decided that a one on three break was a good move. He was right. A three point play ensued and just like that the Pelicans were tied with the Thunder at 50. Evans kept pushing the issue, and following a couple free throws he put a nifty move on Durant with 6:03 left in the quarter to give the Pelicans a 58-56 lead, bringing the crowd to their feet.
Evans kept being aggressive when play resumed, and he finished the quarter with 15 of the Pelicans 25 points. Nearly every play was run through him, and the results were hard to argue with. This is the Evans that Dell thought he was signing last offseason to run his second unit. It’s a shame we never really got to see that vision come to fruition. There literally was not a Pelicans turnover in the third quarter, and as a result they led 70-69 to start the fourth quarter.
The Thunder came out with a small and young lineup to start the fourth, with Durant still playing a very passive game. He was still disengaged early in the fourth quarter. Tyreke had no such issues, and came out with the same fire he displayed in the third quarter. Good thing, because the rest of the Pelicans didn’t do too much to help him offensively early on.
A flurry of action closed out the first six minutes of the second half– a disputable block on Babbit and the resulting fast break turned what would have been a five point game into a single point difference. Miller hit a three, Andre Robinson (Thunder) followed with a layup, and then Morrow, an ice cold 0-4 at the time from long range, nailed a deep ball to give the Pelicans a five point lead.
Kevin Durant seemed more intent on making his presence felt after a short commercial break, but Tyreke Evans would have none of it. He reached his career high with about four minutes to go in the game, and scored 11 straight points for the Pelicans before Kevin Durant nailed a three pointer to cut the lead to seven.
No biggie. Luke Babbitt wasn’t worried. He nailed a three pointer to get the lead back to 10 with 1:46 left and that would be more than enough to coast to victory. When it was all said and done the Pelicans beat the Thunder 101 to 89, breaking a losing streak that spanned all the way back into 2011.
In the end Evans scored 41 points on 26 shots to go with 9 boards, 8 assists, 3 steals, and just a single turnover. The 41 points are the most scored by a New Orleans player since David West donned the creole blue. Evans did this against the second best team in the Western Conference despite being surrounded by recent second round picks and replacement level players (at best in some cases).
The way he did it? By driving over and over and over. The Thunder were simply unable to keep him out of the paint, and he pressed the issue all night long instead of settling for jumpers as he’s sometimes inclined to do. The three point shooters that surrounded him didn’t crush it, but they were adequate enough and made a few when they needed to. The spacing they created allowed for Evans to get the advantage inside when he drove, resulting in either easy buckets or free throws. Love it.
Oddly enough, he was a game time decision.
Tonight was obviously Tyreke’s night, but the rest of the gang played well also. I want to run through the lineup and say one nice thing about everyone, just because that game was awesome and they all deserve it for contributing to such a great experience.
I would take Austin Rivers in a fight against Nick Collison any day.
Ajinca had a great first half. Without him, I don’t think the Pelicans would have played the Thunder roughly even in the second quarter.
Aminu managed to snag 5 of the Pelicans 10 offensive rebounds even though he played only 21 minutes.
Babbitt’s three pointer late in the fourth extinguished the spark that Kevin Durant had finally managed to create. That shot was huge.
Darius Miller did a lot of things right, but containing Kevin Durant was the most impressive. His late three ball was key but it was on the defensive end that he really made an impact.
You have to give Melvin Ely credit. He doesn’t miss a beat. It’s been years since he’s been here and he’s still throwing up air balls like it’s his job. In all seriousness the airball wasn’t his fault…this time. He used to frustrate me so much, but for some reason I was happy to see him out there again.
Anthony Morrow was pretty cold all game, but when he and Miller connected for back to back threes it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Jeff Withey played a hell of a game on both ends. He’s never going to be a star, but to see this much improvement in only his first season is a good sign that he can be a contributor for years to come. He had four blocks, none bigger than his swat of Serge Ibaka with 2:57 left in the fourth. He his a really nice hook shot earlier in the game that I would love to see substantially more of going forward.
James Southerland made a free throw. It’s true.
One thing I want to mention is that in the pregame I said that the Thunder had clinched the second seed already. That was in fact not the case. My only excuse is that the blood moon (1 am for those in New Orleans) has destroyed my brain
It was actually widely reported by the AP and others that they clinched the second seed against us a few days ago. See? My pregame search of “Thunder” and “clinch” led me to the false headlines, and the rest is history.
It's has been reported that Steismsma was cut for business reasons. ....wow,talk about a two for one deal. .....ax your worst and get something for it......nice
I was loving this! I live in OKC and was able to taunt all of my coworkers afterwards. They've laughed at me all season when I talk about the Pelicans.
Now we beat them with a skeleton crew. :)
Still excited about this win. The offensive efficiency of Ajinca, Babbit, Rivers, and ESPECIALLY Evans really stood out, as did the all around play by Ajinca, Babbitt, Evans, and Withey. Wonder what tonight will bring?
Yesterday was a frustrating day but it brightened tremendous with the news that Steam had been waived. I've not made it a secret of my anguish with him and seems like Evans celebrated with a 40 point game. Way to geaux Tyreke Evans. Then to have my Pelicans win against Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder was the topping on the cake to send me to bed with a smile on my face. I agree that Dell has a lot of tough decisions ahead of him but I think Ajinca and Whitey are keepers. Sadly, it looks like we will have to depart ways with Jason and keep Eric Gordon (sigh). But you never know with dealer Dell and if anyone can sell swamp land, I think it's Demps. Although this season was not we had hoped for, there is so much to look forward to if we can get rid of the injury demon.
Austin took out his frustration of another losing season out on Collison but it looked like Collison was about to rock Austin's world. It was boneheaded of Austin knowing the player situation but you can't blame the man for standing up for himself. Actually seeing the fire was inspiring. I won't compliment Monty because each time I've done it previously, he's kicked over a perfectly good bucket of milk. His realization come way too late - so, we'll see if a summer with Coach K and watching film can penetrate what is obviously a very thick skull. Onto next....there should be a big sale of Pelicans gear for next year don't ya think?!
Sorry ,but Collison would be my pick in the the fight….thicker arms to absorb punches…heavier…taller and thicker….stronger body…..Rivers displayed lack of emotional control not understanding to avoid the confrontation…just ignore the lil shove as the team lacked depth at the point guard position,Rivers decided to go macho man and it cost the team needed depth.Yeah i know they won etc ,but you get the point.
I think this, along with the second half of this year, shows Montys growth as a coach. His players are playing hard, and we actually look like we know what's going on out there lol. I believe the defense is slowly getting better, which is his specialty. Earlier in the season, guys seemed lost on most defensive possessions. I think Monty realizes with this group we have to take a lot of 3s and attack the paint more. I hope he realizes that is the key even with our healthy starters. No complaints about that game. I love Withy blocking KD, then following it up with a block of Ibaka. Ajinca shows some real promise. If he can work on fundamentals in the off season we may have a surprise waiting for us next season. I don't see Jason Smith coming back with Ajinca though. Ajinca's shot is smooth and can only get better. Poor Rivers, but Tyreke was UNSTOPPABLE!
Haha I didn't even think about the whole "Tyreke works better without Stiemsma" thing, but so far, he's averaging 41 points since we let go of the Steamer.
I think someone said it last game: it's amazing what can happen when all 5 players on the floor are somewhat of a threat on offense.
Tyreke was in complete beast mode last night. ...OKC had no answer for him........Can't imagine him coming off the bench next year. ....Dell has a lot of work to do......
The last few games, and this one in particular, lead to interesting questions about who to keep for next year. To me, the definitely returning players are: Ajinca, Anderson, Davis, Evans, Holiday, and, hopefully Morrow. (All are "core" players to me except Ajinca. Ajinca is on the list because he has a guaranteed contract and he has definitely shown enough promise to go to camp with the team.)
Has Babbitt moved into that category, especially given his cheap contract? Has Withey? Those are two guys with such a low trade value, I am not sure there is a chance to move them. So either you keep them or cut them.
And where is Miller in the team's plans? Is he the next Lance Thomas, a cheap contract guy who sticks around for longer than anyone imagined because he?
The rest, Aminu, Gordon, Rivers, Roberts, and Smith, all have pluses and minuses when evaluating the retain or move/don't resign question. And I haven't even factored Pierre Jackson in. It could be a few moves but very interesting offseason.
@LaNative Regarding Monty William's performance we knew this was going to be a learning process.... looking at the body of work... Pretty Good..
@GerryV I agree with xman. It's ABOUT TIME we saw some fire from these guys. I really thing that lit up the team and they carried it with them despite Rivers being ejected.
@GerryV Well its about time someone started the fire in the kitchen... Looks like ole school basketball with someone getting ejected for fighting... Not a bad tone to take into the offseason.. notice the expression on Collison's face like who does this kid think he is. and its almost over with Miller and Roberts restricted and Morrow, Aminu, Smith and Steamer has already gotten dumped.. noting if the Steam had half the fire and moxie of Rivers, he would be on the team...
A big question is whether Smith is ready to play Center or do we move on..
@Jason Quigley That's an EXCEPTIONAL avg! lol.