2013-14 Pre-Season Game 4 Recap: Oklahoma City Thunder fall to the New Orleans Pelicans, 105-102

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder lost their first game of the pre-season, falling to the Pelicans as their final attempts to tie fell off the mark.

Box Score

The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped their first game of the pre-season to the New Orleans Pelicans, 105-102. The game was an entertaining affair as far as pre-season games go, with the two teams trading leads down the stretch and relying on clutch play to stay competitive. The Thunder held a 1 point lead with a minute to go, but could not score another point. The Pelicans were able to get a big basket from Brian Roberts, and 2 Anthony Davis free throws led to the final margin of defeat.

The Thunder were led by Kevin Durant, who finished with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, but committed 6 turnovers. Reggie Jackson chipped in with 12 points and 9 assists, but only shot 4-12 and committed an additional 4 turnovers. Rookie Steven Adams continued to impress, recording his first double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out.

The Pelicans were led by Eric Gordon, who finished with 21 points. Brian Roberts also contributed with 14 points and helped key the late game comeback that keeps the Pelicans undefeated in the pre-season.


What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?

The game was an uneven affair that, despite the loss, showed us more positives than negatives and was quite the wild ride. Realistically, if Kevin Durant had played in the 4th quarter the Thunder would have come out with a win, but I liked Scott Brooks' tactic of entrusting his backups along with Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha to try and retain the game as it wound to a close.

The first half was marked by significant improvement in the Thunder's 3-point game. It was clear that their failures through the first 3 games were causing a measure of redress, as the team as a whole shot 9-12 from behind the arc, including 8 in a row. Most important, the shots came within the rhythm of the offense, not simply by one guy getting hot. Ryan Gomes was the surprise leader of the 3-point barrage, hitting 3-3 in his 12 minutes of play. Jeremy Lamb also was able to get a little bit more of his shooting stroke going, hitting 2 3-pointers in the first half and looking very comfortable shooting the ball.

Unfortunately, this 3-point shooting focus did not continue in the 2nd half, as the team shot only 3-11 the rest of the way. The shooting percentage was dreary, but what was sad was that it seemed to fall out of the offense completely and the team turned into more of a one-on-one affair.

The biggest bright spot in my mind was Steven Adams, who looks to me like the Thunder's best center. He is as big and strong as Kendrick Perkins but has the quickness Ibaka and the footwork of Nick Collison. Adams grabbed 15 boards on the night, 6 of which were offensive. He has very little difficulty holding his spot around the rim and he jumps at deft angles in order to easily grab offensive rebounds. It is also a subtle thing, but Adams grabs, pivots, and fires the ball to the outlet man in a very natural motion. I wonder if he has spent time watching Kevin Love or even Bill Walton.

What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?

Apparently that Durant guy was not good enough to get minutes in the 4th quarter.

Seriously though, Scott Brooks sat Durant down for the entirety of the 4th in order to give most of his bench players the opportunity to try and close the game out. For the most part, they were delivering, and the go-to guy down the stretch was their best shooter...Serge Ibaka. Ibaka was the best looking shooter on the court, and he finished the 4th with 7 points on 3-4 shooting. It was his corner-3 that put the Thunder up by 2 with under 3 minutes to play. I like the fact that the team was trusting Ibaka in these big moments.

Unfortunately, his effort was undone a bit by Reggie Jackson. The word that kept jumping into my mind during this game was that dreaded phrase "hero ball." We've used it on both Russell Westbrook and Durant, but never for Jackson. Unfortunately he seemed to get caught up in the guard play with the Pelicans' Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, and Brian Roberts. To the Pelicans' credit, their guards outplayed OKC's. Jackson forced a number of shots, including 3 bad looking 3-pointers, the worst of which was 25 footer with 7 seconds remaining. Jackson also ran 3 bad possessions at the end of the game that resulted in a travel, a badly missed baseline jumper, and the aforementioned 3-pointer.

What was a key statistic to understanding the game?

The Thunder shot 12-23 from the 3-point line in the game, including 9 in the first half. As noted above, this was a great thing to see, after OKC struggled so mightily to put together a long range game in the previous 3 games.

Unfortunately, the Thunder also got caught up in a lot of one-on-one plays subsequent to their 3-point shooting efforts, and it culminated in 21 turnovers on the night. The team as a whole tended to over-dribble and over-penetrate, which led to kickout passes that went nowhere. Durant was the biggest culprit, turning it over 6 times on his own.

OKC has always been turnover prone, but tonight it was simply a lot of carelessness.

What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?

The Thunder finally dropped a game in the pre-season, but I do believe there were plenty of positives to take away. Adams continues to enable the Thunder to play a fast brand of basketball, and the Thunder bench players are beginning to find a level of comfort. After the up-and-down bench performance a year ago, the possibility of consistent bench play is alluring. On the whole, the Thunder bench players produced 42 points on 16-29 shooting.

Going forward, I would look for Jackson to reign in his playmaking attempts a bit and trust his teammates to make plays for him. Jackson is still learning when and how to attack, and while we will likely see more clunkers like this one, it all is part of his upward trajectory.

***

Sherman's Awards

Thunder Wonder: Serge Ibaka, 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, outstanding defense on Anthony Davis

Thunder Down Under: Steven Adams, 10 points, 15 rebounds (6 offensive), 2 assists, 1 block

Thunder Blunder: Reggie Jackson, 4-12 shooting, 4 turnovers, 3 really bad game ending sequences

Thunder Plunderer: Eric Gordon, 21 points on 6-9 shooting

***

Next game: Sunday, October 20th vs the Utah Jazz at 6PM CDT

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