The Pelicans nightmare trip out West concluded with one final stomach punch Monday night as New Orleans came up short for the sixth straight contest, a 122-116 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
New Orleans got to within a point in the final minute of regulation but couldn’t overtake an Oklahoma City team that had lost Russell Westbrook to a nasty sprained ankle late in the third quarter.
Anthony Davis, who famously said needed to channel his inner Westbrook after DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles this past February, was very un-Westbrook-like in needing 20 shots to get 20 points, and he was constantly beat up by Thunder big Steven Adams in the painted area.
But it wasn’t merely Anthony Davis having an off night or any particular Thunder player having a stellar night shooting that killed New Orleans, it was 21 turnovers and 28 points off said miscues that hurt the Pelicans the most — an all too uncommon theme of late.
The excessive turnovers were particularly costly and cancelled out some quality performances from several other New Orleans players. Julius Randle couldn’t miss Monday night, making all 10 of his field goals and all four free throws en route to a 26-point performance. Jrue Holiday and Niko Mirotic each had doubles with Holiday posting 22 points and 14 assists, while Niko had 16 points and tied a career high with 16 rebounds. The pair was also the only two Pelican starters to not have a negative plus/minus while they were on the floor.
As mentioned earlier, the painted area was open early and open often as the Thunder racked up 62 points Monday night. The three ball was very kind to Oklahoma City’s Paul George and Patrick Patterson as the two combined to hit seven of 13 attempts. George had 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds, Westbrook nearly had another triple-double, 17-7-9, in 25 minutes and Steven Adams had an additional 18 points; but it was Oklahoma City’s Dennis Schroder, coming in like a relief pitcher for the injured Westbrook, that gave the Thunder that extra offensive kick to stave off the Pelicans. Schroder had 22 points in 24 minutes, with 11 coming in the fourth quarter.
“When the fourth quarter started and we started to battle back, it’s too high of a mountain to climb- especially against a team that good, even without Westbrook,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “They got a capable guy. Schroder, I thought, played great. He’s been a starter in this league. It’s not a role he hasn’t been in.”
Next up for New Orleans, the Pelicans limp home to take on the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night, looking to snap this hideous six-game losing streak.
“We’re putting ourselves in positions where we have to have a perfect storm to win,” Gentry said. “In other words, we dig in, make our run, we come back, but we’re never ahead. But we’re playing hard and competing at a real high level. We’re going to be fine.”
Good to hear the coach remain so positive because all I see and hear are helter-skelter fire drills.