Thunder vs. New Orleans Pelicans Game Recap – Nov. 18, 2015

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

For literally the entire night, the Thunder had to struggle, battle and persevere. Through missed layups, fumbles and late closeouts, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club had to employ some mental and physical gumption to take care of the New Orleans Pelicans, which it finally did late in the fourth quarter to pull away with a 110-103 home victory.

During the run of play, the Thunder stayed big even when New Orleans went small to exploit some mismatches in the paint, then matched up in the fourth quarter to lock up defensively on the perimeter-oriented Pelicans. Russell Westbrook was sensational, continually attacking the basket and the Thunder navigated its way to a hard-fought win.

"When the ball is in his hands, he's attacking the basket, then he has to make good decisions," Donovan said of Westbrook. "He made good decisions."

"We did a good job executing. Defensively we did a better job of locking in at the task at hand," Westbrook explained. "My job was to be able to attack and take what the defense gave me."

After falling behind by nine in the first quarter, the Thunder utilized a 20-7 second quarter burst to take control of the game. Throughout the second half, however, New Orleans seemed to have a counter-run for every Thunder burst. Ultimately the Pelicans would cut the lead back down to 85-82 with just eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and the game hung in the balance for a few possessions. D.J. Augustin then curled around a screen and knocked down a crucial three-pointer, followed by a beautiful pass from Nick Collison to Enes Kanter for a bucket.

After a Pelicans score, Augustin nailed another three-pointer, this one from the corner. Kanter then followed up a missed shot with one of his six offensive rebounds, and 14 overall boards, to give the Thunder a 95-84 edge with five-and-a-half minutes to play.

All of the sudden, however, the Pelicans drew back within 97-94 behind back-to-back three-pointers, leaving Donovan’s group with some more work to do. Out of a timeout, Westbrook used an in-and-out dribble to leave his man in the dust, driving to the basket to draw a foul and bank in a layup.

"Russell had another really efficient game," Donovan said. "He did some very good things. He made a great play coming out of a timeout. He made a great read, drove around a guy and finished a lefty layup."

Westbrook then snagged a defensive rebound and raced the length of the floor for a layup to put this one out of reach, highlighting a magnificent 43-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist performance.

"A guy like that, attacking, is very dangerous," Augustin said. "He can score, find other guys and it does a lot for our team. It gets other guys open and we have to be ready to knock down shots when he finds us."

Watch: Thunder Highlights

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Second Quarter Spark by the Second Unit

It wasn’t pretty in the early going for the Thunder. In fact, the first quarter featured just 27.3 percent shooting and a minus-four showing in the rebounding column. The starters hadn’t played up to their normal standards, and it was up to the Thunder’s second unit of D.J. Augustin, Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler, Nick Collison and Enes Kanter to provide a spark.

The Pelicans had pushed their lead to 30-21, but finally Donovan’s group found its rhythm, working through Enes Kanter from the inside. Thanks to a free throw and a spin move for a layup by the Turkish center, the Thunder got off the mat, leading to a Waiters drive to the rim and another Kanter bucket in the paint, part of the big man’s 24 points on the night.

"Enes is a great player on the block," Augustin said. "We tried to get him some touches and get him going. He did a great job."

Every time I'm on the block, my teammates give me confidence to go to the basket," Kanter said. "When they double-teamed, I passed it out. That's what I tried to do tonight."

After a New Orleans three-pointer, Augustin hit a free throw, followed by a Waiters bucket at the rim and a Singler three from the corner to give the Thunder the lead at 34-33. It was a much-needed 13-3 burst by the second unit, allowing the Thunder to get back into this one from a confidence standpoint.

At morning shootaround, the second unit got together to discuss some of the ways it could be more effective, and one of the keys was the energy it brought.

"We were just playing good defense, pushing the ball in transition and finding each other," Augustin said. "We did a great of sharing the ball, moving without the ball and our defense ignited all of that."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

By the Numbers

3-for-3 – Shooting numbers for D.J. Augustin, including two massive three-pointers in the fourth quarter

9 - Assists by reserve players on the night, in addition to 44 bench points in total

50-40 - Rebounding edge for the Thunder on the night, aided by eight from Andre Roberson

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Last Word

"I was really pleased with what the second unit did. Nick, Enes, Dion, Kyle and D.J., they did a nice job."

- Head Coach Billy Donovan

Tags
1/
NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter