Turnovers happened early and often and the Pelicans could not stop the Thunder offense in a 110-96 loss on Saturday night in the Smoothie King Center. The loss marked the third in the last four for New Orleans and was especially hard to swallow as it came to a team chasing the Pelicans in the Western Conference standings.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Early on, the Pelicans struggled to take care of the basketball as they turned it over three times in the first 5:14 of the game. That allowed Oklahoma City to maintain a lead throughout much of the first quarter. From there, it was shot-making that extended the OKC lead. After one, the Thunder led 32-22 while they shot 58% to the Pelicans 32%.
The second quarter began with a quick run for the Pelicans that made it 32-28. However, Oklahoma City would outscore New Orleans 25-8 over the next stretch to achieve their largest lead of the half at 57-36 with 2:30 left in the period. The lead at the half would be 63-44 in favor of the Thunder. Shae Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 23 points on an ultra-efficient 7-10 shooting in the first half. CJ McCollum had 13 to try to keep the Pelicans in it, but 12 turnovers leading to 17 Thunder points were the biggest issue in the half.
The Pelicans would improve their shooting in the third quarter. They shot 47% in the third period, and tried to make a run to cut into the lead. However, Oklahoma City continued to match them and there were not enough stops in the quarter to significantly slice into the deficit. After three, OKC led 87-70.
Three-point shooting was not the issue for the Pelicans in this one and they would hit a few more in the fourth quarter. A nice run that included a couple of three-point shots got the deficit down to nine at 96-87 with 5:12 to go. However, that is as close as New Orleans would get as they dropped the contest 110-96. It was Gilgeous-Alexander who made the difference for the Thunder. CJ McCollum did turn in 26 points in the loss, and Jaxson Hayes had a nice showing with 11 points off the bench.
BIG NUMBER: 22
The Pelicans turned the basketball over 22 times, which led to 23 OKC points. The sloppy play could not be overcome, even on a night where New Orleans made 12 three-point shots.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Shae Gilgeous-Alexander
The Oklahoma City star led the way as he scored 35 points in the victory for the Thunder. He made all 13 of his free throws to go along with six rebounds, four steals, and two assists.
UP NEXT: The Pelicans will stay home to host the Portland Trail Blazers in the second of a back-to-back at 6:00 P.M. tomorrow night.