Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player, returned to the Thunder lineup after missing the opener with a knee injury. He logged in just nine minutes of action but reminded everyone of his impact when he is on the floor. Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson were both inactive due to knee injuries.
In the first quarter, the Thunder struggled with turnovers, but the offense took a step in the right direction. The return of the Brodie leading the break and distributing the ball was key to the Thunder’s success. Westbrook scored nine points with 4 assists and a rebound in his brief stint of action. Defensively, the Thunder continued to show stifling defense, contesting the Pelicans shots in the paint and beyond the arc, and made it tough for the Pelicans’ bigs to operate.
The Thunder’s tremendous defensive effort carried over into the second quarter as the Pelicans continued to struggle. The defense forced the Pelicans into seven straight missed field goals and built the lead to as many as 15 in the quarter. George banked in a wing three that started the 10-3 spurt, also hitting a pair of free throws after getting fouled on a three point attempt. The Thunder took a 53-44 lead into the halftime break.
The second half began with George nailing a three to stretch the lead to 12. The Pelicans responded with a 13-1 run to tie the game at 57 behind Jrue Holiday’s 7 points during the run. The Thunder answered with a burst led by six quick points from Paul George, a Raymond Felton mid-range jumper, and capped off by a Steven Adams dunk off an oop from Felton to give the Thunder a 70-63 advantage.
The reserves checked in and contributed solid minutes. Terrance Ferguson continued to impress, showing activity on both ends of the floor and a maturity unbecoming of a rookie. He also gave Thunder fans a peak of his athleticism with a two-handed jam that brought the crowd to its feet.
TFerg showing those YouTube hops!! pic.twitter.com/CIuGCyzwew— RKAnthony (@RKAnthonyWTLC) October 7, 2017
Ferguson finished with nine points, Dakari Johnson and Josh Huestis each scored eight, and Semaj Christon scored seven in his preseason debut.
The Thunder’s solid defensive effort held the Pelicans to just 39% shooting from field and forced 15 turnovers. Paul George led the Thunder with 25 points and Carmelo Anthony chipped in 9 points and 6 rebounds.
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 14 points and 7 rebounds. Demarcus Cousins contributed 13 points.
The Thunder return to action on Sunday afternoon against Melbourne United in Oklahoma City.