Oklahoma City continued to be a major thorn in the sides of the Pelicans on Sunday, posting a third win in as many meetings with New Orleans this season, again holding the upper hand late in the fourth quarter. After outscoring the Pelicans late in games twice during the month of November, the Thunder began December by coming up with another clutch-time, head-to-head victory. On Sunday, New Orleans trailed by five points entering the fourth quarter, rallied into the lead briefly, but couldn’t hold on as Oklahoma City regained the upper hand.
“We’ve got to put (the players) in good situations, as a coaching staff,” fifth-year head coach Alvin Gentry said of the Pelicans needing to improve in close games. “We’ve got to dig ourselves out, find a way to make those plays down the stretch, get stops down the stretch and find a way to win these games.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Danilo Gallinari made the first of two free throws with 1.8 seconds left to give OKC a three-point lead, then missed the second, but the rebound bounced around long enough to bleed the remaining time off the clock. Steven Adams and Chris Paul helped put the Thunder in optimal late-game position by sinking a few back-breaking shots.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Holiday helped keep New Orleans close during the first three quarters, scoring 24 of his game-high 26 points over those initial three stanzas. In his return to starting at a wing spot – with point guard Lonzo Ball back in the first unit – Holiday shot 10/19 from the field, including 3/6 on three-point shots. After missing the last two games due to illness, Ball shot well from the perimeter, going 4/8 on treys, part of his 14-point, seven-assist outing.
BY THE NUMBERS
17/38: New Orleans three-point shooting, which helped the Pelicans stay close after the Thunder built a 14-point early lead.
9/10: Pelicans foul shooting, representing a high accuracy rate, but far too few trips to the line. It was their second-fewest attempts in a game this season, better than only a 4/6 game at Miami on Nov. 16.
3: New Orleans offensive rebounds, a season low. The starters only had one.
For the fifth time in six weeks of this regular season, Brandon Ingram earned the most votes from fans in a Player of the Week poll, this time garnering 56 percent of ballots. In a total of three games this week (Wednesday vs. the Lakers, two against Oklahoma City), the forward averaged 23.0 points per game.