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Thunder eliminated from playoffs after 109-95 loss to Pelicans

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New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

If you were busy watching the NFL Draft, then no worries, not much was missed with this game outside of the debut of Gabriel Deck in a 109-95 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Deck signed a multi-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 12 but was finally able to play tonight with his new team after dealing with immigration issues and COVID-19 protocols.

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault mentioned pregame that players like Deck and Charlie Brown Jr. would be taking Kenrich Williams minutes tonight to see what they are made of. He cites that the season only has a handful of games left as a reason to sit Williams. It is unknown right now whether this Williams benching is just a one-game thing or a multigame decision.

While playing just 15 minutes, the 26-year-old played well, considering the circumstances of being thrown into the fire essentially.

Deck was baptized by fire when he checked in and immediately guarded the Pelicans’ two best players in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Deck held his own on those possessions and showed some defensive intelligence.

“He did a really good job on him (Williamson). We wanted to see how he looked like after we saw Baze on him,” said Daigneault postgame.

Outside of Deck, I thought a few guys played good games.

Isaiah Roby scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench.

Darius Bazley scored 15 points but struggled with his shot as he went 6-of-15 and 0-of-6 from three.

Lu Dort finished with 14 points. But as WTLC’s Ben Mertens mentioned on Twitter, Dort has been as aggressive when fighting over screens as he was earlier in the season.

A theory over that is that Dort had a much larger offensive responsibility than earlier this season when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Al Horford played. Dort has also played a ton of minutes lately, 34 a night in his last five games, including 33 minutes tonight. You have to wonder maybe late-season fatigue is kicking in for the 22-year-old.

Theo Maledon scored 16 points. Svi Mykhailiuk scored 12 points in 18 minutes. Moses Brown dominated the boards and finished with 18 rebounds.

After a surprise win in Boston hurt their lottery odds, the Thunder got some help tonight with the Timberwolves winning their 20th game of the season, compared to the Thunder’s 21 wins. In terms of the loss column, OKC’s 42 losses are two games back of Minnesota’s 44.

Another thing to note is that tonight’s loss officially eliminates the Thunder from playoff contention. This the first time the franchise has missed the playoffs since 2015, where the team was plagued with injuries to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka.

Next Game: The Thunder play the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.