The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the New Orleans Pelicans at home, 122-116 to deliver their 5th straight win and move above .500 for the first time this season. Amidst an impressive win however was the loss of Russell Westbrook, who left the game in the third due to what was later described by Billy Donovan as a left ankle sprain.
Looks like Russell Westbrook rolled his ankle on the way down here. Scary moment in OKC. pic.twitter.com/OVoncvLhRu— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) November 6, 2018
After Westbrook left for good following the injury, the Thunder were once again faced with the loss of a key player with lots of time left on the game clock. However, after the Pelicans pulled to within 2 points with 3:12 left to go in the quarter, the Thunder bench responded with a 16-4 run. Led by Dennis Schroder, OKC finished the quarter up 14 and with breathing room to head into the 4th.
OKC held onto a 10 point lead to start the final frame. Seldom used Ray Felton checked in to spell Schroder, and proceeded for some reason to call his own number 3 straight times, killing OKC’s momentum and allowing the Pels to cut the lead to 6.
However, Schroder quickly reentered and led the team to bounce back, quickly pushing the lead back to 11 following his own 3-pointer. New Orleans staged one final push, climbing back to within two at 118-116 but forced to foul, and Schroder and then Paul George put the game away at the free throw line.
- It is a virtual certainty OKC would have lost this game a year ago. And, after Jerami Grant only managed to split a pair of free throws with 32.6 seconds remaining, it was still a possibility. But this time around, even as OKC still missed 9 FTs on the night, the right guys stepped up and sealed the win at the line.
- The biggest key to OKC holding on to this win was in their defense of Anthony Davis. To be sure, their defense still gave up 116 and nearly 50% shooting to New Orleans, but they largely held Davis in check, only shooting 7-20 from the floor, grabbing 8 rebounds, and committing 5 turnovers. Key to that defense was how Steven Adams was able to hold Davis off of the rim while OKC’s long-armed defenders including Jerami Grant and George were able to tip and pick off the lob passes from the guards.
- Which led to 20 turnovers by New Orleans, 15 of which were steals by OKC, leading to 28 points off turnovers.
- From a pure offense standpoint it seemed as if the other Pelican big men stepped in nicely, with Julius Randle getting one of those quirky, Serge Ibaka-esque stat lines of 26 points on 10-10 shooting, including 2-2 from 3-point range, while Nikola Mirotic chipped in with 16-16. But OKC was largely willing to let those guys get theirs and prevent Davis from single-handedly wiping out the front line (which he has done in the past).
- Perhaps during the most critical stretch of the game — those two minutes following Westbrook’s injury — none other than Hamidou Diallo showed up and, in the words of Jon Hamm, “started athleting.”
Those back-to-back dunks woke OKC up from a stupor and they hit the gas for the remainder of the quarter, setting themselves up for the win.