The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the New Orleans Pelicans on the road, 109-104. In a game that came down to the final few possessions, OKC once again started to buckle at the knees, but this time didn’t topple over completely. Behind the aggressive offense of Paul George and yet another triple-double from Russell Westbrook (his 5th in a row vs the Pelicans), OKC had just enough leverage to hold onto a multiple-possession win.
Which is not to say everything went peachy. OKC started slowly out of the gates, falling behind by 10 early on as their offense stalled repeatedly. George, while aggressive throughout, didn’t have the greatest shooting game, finishing 9-24 from the floor and 3-11 from 3-point range. The repeated misfires early on dug a hole, but fortunately the bench unit was once again up to the challenge.
Behind energized bench play of Patrick Patterson, Raymond Felton, and Jerami Grant, the pace picked up and George started to find his shooting touch. They closed hard on the deficit, and in less than 3 minutes into the 2nd, OKC had regained the lead. In the process of turning the game around, the Thunder defense found some energy and focus that has been missing of late. They outscored New Orleans 33-22 overall in the 2nd to take a narrow 3 point lead into the half.
The remainder of the game was a seesaw affair, as OKC would push themselves to a decent lead only to fumble it away again. However, what was apparent was 1) the Thunder actually did have a plan on dealing with Anthony Davis; and 2) likely through a combination of his lingering ankle injury and the amount of attention, Davis had an off-game. Part of the reason? OKC stopped the @#$*&!! switching on every screen.
.@adaniels33 talking about the importance of OKC fighting thru screens tonight rather than switching constantly. Allowed Adams to stay near Davis.— Jon Hamm (@JonMHamm) April 2, 2018
Which turned out to be critical, because the Pelicans got little out of Jru Holiday and key bench player Nikola Mirotic. And if it weren’t for big games from Darius Miller and Ian Clark, New Orleans would have lost by double digits.
But they didn’t, and OKC couldn’t put them away in the 4th, and this tweet sums it up about as well as anything.
Perfect example of why the Thunder blow games in crunch time. Westbrook hits a dagger-y jumper, they play soft defense and allow an easy runner to Moore, then Westbrook cranks a bad 3, they don't get back, and Miller hits a 3 to cut it to 5.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 2, 2018
In total, the game was no work of art (something more of a garbage plate — tasty, but ugh), and even with Westbrook’s triple-double, was far closer than it should have been.
However...OKC has proven that they don’t have to play a beautiful game to win. They are not a Ferrari. What they are is closer to a Humvee, working best when they’re moving the chains, playing aggressive defense (even Carmelo Anthony got into the act a bit), and eventually their stars made just enough plays to hold on. It likely isn’t enough to win against the league’s best, but without it, will get you beat by the league’s worst.
It’s a win, and now the gauntlet will swing at them from the left (Harden), the right (Durant), and the b**** (Draymond).