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Pelicans defense fails late, Russell Westbrook dominates, Thunder win, 121-110

Westbrook (42 points) puts all the nails in all the coffins.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Blood red apparently means death for the Pelicans, and as time wilted away in the 4th quarter, fan’s frustrations must have spiked watching OKC reserves and superstar Russell Westbrook finish off the home team.

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 121-110 on the second night of a back-to-back at the Smoothie King Center on Wednesday night. Not only did the Pelicans fall to 10-21 on the year, but they remain winless in one particular circumstance: when they wear those awesome red jerseys, the Pels are 0-8.

Only Philadelphia, Memphis and the Magic are keeping the Pelicans from the bottom of the league in offensive rating, but tonight it was the defense that let the team down, especially when the OKC bench unit of Enes Kanter, Alex Abrines and Joffrey Lauvergne came in. Those three, plus Semaj Christon, made 6 of 7 shots in a hot first quarter; the Thunder shot 59 percent in the 4th, with most of the damage coming from rookie Abrines and NBA scoring leader Westbrook.

Kanter, Abrines and Lauvergne totaled 42 points on the night, including a career-high 18 from Abrines and a tidy 14-point, 14-rebound effort from Kanter. Westbrook finished with 42 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in what seemed to be an up and down performance (which is an amazing thing to think with those gaudy numbers). Westbrook got to the line often to support his decent shooting night, making 16 of 18 free throws, some of which were earned with what I’ll call “rewarded flails.” However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that he also buried the Pelicans with pull-up jumpers and the ol’ “guns and holster” routine.

Anthony Davis was excellent with 34 points and 15 rebounds; in the first few minutes of the 4th quarter, with Davis off the floor, the Pelicans went from an 87-84 deficit to trailing 100-87 and they never mounted a serious rally the rest of the way — even when the Brow returned. Davis went 4 of 8 in the 4th quarter for 9 points, but seemed to go half the quarter without a legit touch in a spot on the floor where he likes to operate.

The Thunder got off to a hot start, especially from those bench boys, shooting 60.9 percent in the 1st quarter and kindly removing “starting center” Alexis Ajinca from the game with 2 fouls (Gentry finally learned and started Terrence Jones after halftime).

Jrue Holiday (23 points, 10 assists), Terrence Jones (21 points, 2 rebounds in 33:46) and Tim Frazier (10 points, 5 assists) helped kick-start the offense in the 2nd quarter and the Pels were down just 5 at half, but they couldn’t get all the way back in it despite a 12-for-22 third quarter.

Once the fourth quarter (OKC won 34-26) started, that’s when the trouble began...


... and it happened right away with a defensive-3-seconds call on Tyreke Evans. Appearing in just his 3rd game of the year, Tyreke played 14:40 minutes and had 6 points and 3 assists with 2 turnovers. But his fourth quarter wasn’t too solid, with a bad long 2 miss and a blocked layup attempt during that OKC run after his defensive-3-seconds. In his time in the third quarter, Evans lost Roberson on a well-timed cut — this was less about how good the cut was and more about Evans seeming to stare off into the distance... Roberson is the exact guy you can’t do this against, as you can see here:

But earlier in the game, ‘Reke made something out of nothing, collecting all of his 3 assists in his 1st quarter run. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year goes for Evans, coming back from knee and calf injuries.

Back and Forth

The game was tight throughout much of the middle part of the game, and this mirrored the back-and-forth play we saw a number of times. Multiple times during the night, one Pelican and Thunder pair would go at it two possessions in a row: TJones and Lauvergne exchanged scores; Holiday followed up an ol’e defensive play on a fastbreak with a steal on Westbrook as he tried to work into the post; heck, Kanter has spent much of his career giving up scores while collecting great numbers of his own. This all comes in addition to a pair of Asik plays that saw him once turn it over under the hoop, then the next time make a good catch on the move and deliver an on-point pass to E’Twuan Moore for 3. Westbrook epitomized this Dow Jones behavior (that’s a Dickie V phrase, baby!) with a badly missed 3 that he rebounded and put in for a layup in the 3rd quarter.

The Pelicans host Miami in 2 days, so lets hope for an early Christmas present in the form of a bad Heat team visiting Nola.