Burned In The Bayou: Pelicans Catch Fire In 123-119 Win Over Thunder

Thursday, February 25th 2016, 11:42 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger

If the old phrase, “defense wins championships” is true, then Thursday’s 123-119 loss to the Pelicans is evidence  the Thunder have a long way to go if they plan on hanging a banner inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena.

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Despite a monster scoring game from both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, OKC failed to slow down the Pelicans’ offense and allowed four New Orleans’ players to score 21 points or more in the defeat. Possession after possession the Pelicans were able to get to the basket at will and the defensive promise the Thunder showed in Wednesday night’s win over the Mavericks was virtually nonexistent on Thursday.  

OKC's defensive woes began early on, as New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis lit the Thunder defense up for 16 first-quarter points, while Norris Cole pretty much had his way as well. 

“Coming out to start the first quarter, that was really a tall-telling sign for us to give up 34 points,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “We’re on the road here, and we did a really good job last night against Dallas, but we didn’t come out and play with the same level defensively as we did last night.”

The Thunder held a 64-61 lead at halftime, but neither team led by more than four points in the third quarter and the Pelicans flipped the script and took a two-point lead into the final frame.  

That slim Pelicans lead blossomed to double-digits in less than five minutes, and then a Ryan Anderson three-pointer put the Pelicans up 117-105 with only 3:23 remaining in the game.

To no surprise of anyone, the Thunder still had some fight left, and Westbrook began attacking the basket like a wildman. The mercurial point guard torched the Pelicans’ defense for seven quick points, and then kept a possession alive by rebounding his own miss and getting the ball to Durant, who finished a crafty layup to bring the Thunder within three points with 1:15 left in the game.

On the ensuing Pelicans’s possession, Anthony Davis took the ball at the top of the key and slashed to the basket where Westbrook appeared to block his layup attempt, but instead a foul was called against the Thunder point guard, and Davis was able to put his team up five points with just over a minute remaining.

OKC had a chance to get the ball back with 40 seconds left and facing a five-point deficit, but Durant was unable to secure a rebound off a Jrue Holiday miss and the Pelicans were able to seal the game with free throws.

New Orleans shot 60 percent from behind the arc in the win, and out assisted the Thunder 29-to-25 while also winning the offensive rebound battle 14-to-9.

“They got at us today,” Durant said on the loss. “They scored whenever they wanted and they did whatever they wanted and we didn’t show any resistance.”

Westbrook totaled 44 points and nine assists in the loss while Durant added 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Serge Ibaka notched 15 points and five rebounds, but he was the only other Thunder player to score in double-digits.

Surprisingly, the Thunder are now 9-9 when both Westbrook and Durant score 25 points or more, 24-9 when one or neither reach that mark, and 11-0 when neither superstar reach that point total.

Davis led the way with 30 points while Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday scored 26 and 22 points respectively off the bench.

“They played really good. They gave their bench a huge boost. I think their bench scored 60 points, which was huge,” Donovan said.

It doesn’t get much easier for the Thunder moving forward with the Warriors coming to OKC on Saturday night with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m.

“Just looking forward to playing again,” Durant said on the upcoming matchup. “We get another opportunity to play and get better so we’re all excited about it.”