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Thunder vs. Pelicans, final score: New Orleans spoils Kevin Durant's return, OKC falls 112-104

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Kevin Durant had no problem finding his shot in his return, but the Thunder defense got torched by the Anthony Davis-led Pelicans.

Here's Reggie Jackson - who played well! - as a Golden Girl because it's weird the way this game was -WBB
Here's Reggie Jackson - who played well! - as a Golden Girl because it's weird the way this game was -WBB

Box Score | The Bird Writes

Kevin Durant made his season debut, but even with the reigning MVP back in the lineup, the Thunder couldn't stop the Pelicans in a 112-104 loss.

Durant was on a minutes restriction of 30 minutes, but the abbreviated start didn't seem to bother him. He finished the first quarter 2/3 shooting with 8 points in 7 minutes, and the Thunder used the energy provided by his return to score 26 points in the opening period. The problem was - and it persisted throughout the game - the defense couldn't keep the pace.

The Thunder defense was absolutely gouged by the Pelicans in the first half. Anthony Davis led the charge, putting up 21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals before halftime. On top of that, the Thunder simply couldn't slow down the New Orleans' attack, who relentlessly attacked their way to 25 first-half free throws. It all led to a 69-52 deficit after 2 quarters, which was too much for the Thunder to climb out of.

The bench for the Thunder was their biggest strength, especially the Reggie Jackson/Jeremy Lamb duo that so many have hoped would pan out. They used a 10-3 run to close out the third quarter, trimming the lead to 85-74, and putting the team within striking range for the final frame.

The run actually spanned to 13-3 with a 3-0 run to start out the fourth, and the Thunder made a game of it - as they seemingly have every time they've trailed this year - cutting the lead to as little as five. The defense just couldn't get the stops when they needed them, though, and the team - especially Westbrook - committed some costly turnovers in crunch time.

It was another strong 4th-quarter comeback attempt that simply came up short, something that was supposed to change with Durant and Westbrook's return. Obviously, it's going to take more than their sheer presence for the Thunder to get back to the point where they can pull out these types of games.

What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?

It's great to have Durant back, obviously, but unlike with Westbrook's return, it's going to take the rest of the guys some getting used to him being out there again, The thing with Durant is that he is so good, so smooth, that he can score so effortlessly seemingly every time down the court. But the offense clearly had some trouble understanding where they fit in in all of that, and the ball didn't move quite as effortlessly as it did on Friday night against the Knicks. On top of that, while his shot didn't look rusty at all, Durant's handle definitely wasn't all there. He turned it over five times, a couple of which he just lost the ball trying to make a move.

That's not in any way to say Durant hurt the team, and the 104 points for the team are a welcome change to the grind-it-out style we saw so often in the first few weeks. Still, with the defense as porous as it was, it meant even being the slightest bit out of whack on offense would be to much to overcome.

That defense though...

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

Not only did the Thunder turn the ball over (17 times), not only did the Thunder give up a ton of easy points inside (54 points in the paint), they also committed way too many fouls. The officials definitely had a quick whistle tonight, but the Thunder never adjusted, and they gave the Pelicans 45 free throw attempts - a huge number.

It was a culmination of the Thunder being out of position on defense, whether it was Davis or the other bigs getting inside, or whether it was Tyreke Evans or the the other guards getting by on the perimeter.

Oh, and you can't mention reasons the Thunder lost without mentioning Anthony Davis, who was legitimately a one-man wrecking crew. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals, 4 blocks. He was everywhere, and his presence inside deterred a ton of Thunder opportunities in the restricted area. It led to errant passes and wild shots, which the Pelicans took advantage of and turned into points in transition.

A couple random observations:

1) KD wore last year's version of his shoe (KD VI) rather than his KD VII's of this year. Not sure why exactly, but as someone that's worn both, I can say that last year's was significantly more lightweight. May not mean anything, but just something I found interesting.

2) The New Orleans broadcast mentioned that Davis texted Durant congratulations after he won MVP last year, and Durant replied "you're next." That's neat.


Chris's Awards

Thunder Wonder: Jeremy Lamb: 15 points on 5-7 shooting.

Thunder Down Under: Reggie Jackson: 17 points off the bench, led two huge runs that brought OKC back in it both times.

Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook: still had some flashes of brilliance, but shot just 6-20 and turned it over 7 times.

Thunder Plunderer: Anthony Davis: 25 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals, 4 blocks. M-V-P!


Next game: @ Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, Dec. 5 at 6PM CDT