New Orleans should be glad that Oklahoma City is no longer on the schedule for the remainder of 2019-20. Not because the Thunder dominated the Pelicans in a four-game head-to-head sweep. No, nearly every matchup was winnable, yet Oklahoma City always found a way to make more big plays in crunch time.
OKC made it a 4-0 series over NOLA on Thursday, again outscoring the Pelicans in the clutch. The Western Conference meeting was tied with 5:00 remaining, but the Thunder came up with key baskets in the final minutes, while the Pelicans couldn’t convert on a couple momentous good looks from three-point range. New Orleans was playing without leading scorer Brandon Ingram (right ankle sprain), but remained competitive all night, before seeing its three-game winning streak end.
In the final three matchups between the squads this season, OKC won games by margins of three, five and five points against New Orleans.
“It is frustrating, but like I said before (the game), you have to beat this team,” Alvin Gentry said of the Thunder, alluding to how the visitors only had nine turnovers, while the hosts had 17. “They’re not going to beat themselves.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Oklahoma City ran off extra time from the clock leading by three points, before Dennis Schroder knocked down a pair of free throws for a 123-118 lead. Danilo Gallinari sank a key jumper prior to that to give OKC a six-point edge in the final minute.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Zion Williamson notched a career high in scoring for a second straight game, this time posting 32 points in efficient fashion. The rookie forward was 11/19 from the field and 10/13 from the foul line, while grabbing six rebounds.
BY THE NUMBERS
24-9: Oklahoma City edge in points off turnovers.
50, 48.1: Shooting percentages from the field and three-point range for Oklahoma City on a very strong offensive night, especially when paired with its low turnover count.
22, 24: Points for OKC reserve Schroder and NOLA reserve JJ Redick, both second-best for their team Thursday.
For all eight Thursday games throughout New Orleans’ regular season, we’ll be selecting a Pelicans player we think will most exceed his season average in made three-pointers that night. Daniel Sallerson selected Nicolo Melli (entered Thursday at 1.1 threes per game), while Jim Eichenhofer picked JJ Redick (3.0). In a fan poll among four other candidates, Lonzo Ball (2.3) was chosen. The winner of the fourth contest was the fans, after Ball shot 5/8 from dep. As a result, the season standings are now Jim 3, Daniel 2, Fans 2. There is only one Thursday game remaining for New Orleans.