In honor of Adams’ return, here are 12 thoughts from tonight’s New Year’s Eve loss.
- The Pelicans have been one of the best defensive teams in the league thus far this season, their philosophy on that end is to concede the three, pack the paint and limit fouls. Tonight’s game was a textbook example of that. The Thunder shot 15-of-48 from beyond the arc. The Pelicans also only gave up 15 free throws and OKC made just five of them.
- Turnovers were also the other big problem for the Thunder against the Pelicans. The team lacked ball security, coughing it up 19 times. The turnovers become too much to overcome as this showed in the second half when the Pelicans slowly pulled away. With the Pelicans being such a slow-paced team, possessions are more valuable in games against them, so taking care of the ball is crucial, which the Thunder failed to do.
- Al Horford was the only starter who did not have trouble scoring tonight as he put up 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Darius Bazley continues his shooting struggles as he went 2-of-6 for 7 points. The talented defensive backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe did a fantastic job at clamping down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and George Hill, who combined for just 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
- The fifth starter, Lu Dort, only managed to play 17 minutes this game as he picked up three early fouls that limited his court time. But when he was on the court, Dort played well as he finished with 8 points. For as great as Dort has been this season, he seems to be a bit foul happy as he is averaging three fouls a game. That is the cost of playing such an aggressive style of basketball. But Dort is slowly becoming too valuable to the team for him to get himself into foul trouble; limiting avoidable fouls will be the next step in his progression.
- The Thunder’s interior defense will be a weakness all season long but I thought that the team did a good job at containing the humongous Zion Williamson. Williamson only played 17 minutes due to foul trouble and was limited to just 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Williamson makes his money by bullying down low and the fact that OKC was able to limit this is a rare positive from this blowout loss.
- Aleksej Pokusevski’s passing seems to be his most developed skillset thus far and that showed once again tonight as he gave glimpses of how good of a passer he can be, but there were also some passes that left fans scratching their heads. Pokusevski’s biggest issue has been that he passes earlier than he should, this timing issue should be resolved as Pokesevski gains experience.
- Theo Maledon played 26 minutes and finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds. This was a decent performance for the rookie. The big negative from this performance is that he fouled too much as he finished with three fouls.
- Brandon Ingram had a questionable flagrant two foul and was ejected where he swiped the head of Isaiah Roby on a defensive play in the third quarter. In a vacuum, the ejection was pretty weak and the arm-to-head collusion does not warrant an ejection. But you also have to consider the context of the situation, wherein in the previous play, we saw some back-and-forth jawing between Hamidou Diallo and JJ Redick. The referees were most likely trying to stop anything from escalating and made an example out of Ingram.
- The Thunder only scored 7 points in the fourth quarter, which really caught my eyes when overlooking the box score. The Pelicans did a great job at suffocating the offense and putting this one out of reach.
- After an impressive game against the Orlando Magic, Isaiah Roby had a good encore as he played 18 minutes tonight and finished with 7 points and 6 rebounds. It seems that Roby has jumped Kenrich Williams in the rotation as the latter only played seven minutes this game.
- Coach Daigneault seems to have given his team the green light from the 3-point range this year. The Thunder shot 48 shots beyond the arc tonight and have been a high volume 3-point shooting team thus far this season. I do not have an issue with this, the 3s have mostly been on good looks and have resulted from the rhythm within the offense. There are not as many isolations with this team and they seem to take advantage of their shooting by stretching the floor. So far, I love how the offense has been orchestrating four games into the season. There are more flow and rhythm in their half-court sets and less stagnation.
- And finally, Steven Adams finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. The franchise did a marvelous job at honoring Adams considering the circumstances of having no fans. The video tribute was beautifully done and I look forward to Steven to get the standing ovation he deserves when fans are eventually allowed back into The Peake.
Next game: Thunder travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.