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OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from loss to Pelicans

The Thunder suffered its first blowout of the season, falling to the Pelicans 113-80 on New Year’s Eve at Chesapeake Energy Arena. 

Here are five takeaways from the game: 

Letting it fly 

The Thunder attempted a season-high 48 3-pointers. 

Al Horford, Luguentz Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, George Hill, Theo Maledon and Mike Muscala all had multiple 3-point makes, but the Thunder shot just 31% from 3-point range as a team. 

New Orleans entered the game allowing opponents to attempt an NBA-high 41.5 3-pointers per game. 

“They’re really aggressive on the ball, and they’re really aggressive in help, and that leaves the perimeter open,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We have to take what’s available to us, and I thought in the first half for the most part we did that.” 

While the Thunder’s offense was perimeter-focused, the Pelicans punished the Thunder down low, much like the Magic did two nights ago. 

New Orleans outscored OKC 54-30 in the paint. The Pelicans outrebounded the Thunder 66-49.  

Steven Adams was a mismatch whenever Horford was off the floor, and Zion Williamson was too physical for Darius Bazley. 

Williamson only attempted six shots in 17 minutes, but he was efficient with 12 points and five rebounds. 

Off night 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a rare off night. 

The Thunder point guard shot just 3-of-10 from the floor with eight points, four assists and four rebounds. 

He had just one game last year in which he didn’t score at least 10 points. Gilgeous-Alexander is being defended differently as the Thunder’s No. 1 option. 

“He was getting ready for that,” Dort said. “He already knew it was gonna be like that before the season. 

“Sometimes there’s gonna be nights like that where it’s tough to score. But he’ll just step up next game.” 

Horford (17) and Muscala (10) were the only Thunder players who scored at least 10 points. 

Good and bad 

Watching Aleksej Pokusevski is an adventure. 

In a two-minute, second-quarter span he threw a pass that clanged off the backboard, intended for who knows where, and then Pokusevski found Isaiah Roby under the rim with a beautiful two-handed bullet pass. 

Pokusevski is the youngest player in the NBA, and his good and his bad will be mixed together, sometimes on consecutive possessions. 

“We’re a super, super young team,” Hill said. “And a lot of them don’t have any experience on the court. We’re just out here rolling the ball, rolling the dice trying to figure it all out together. But their heart and their effort is there, and that’s all you can ask from a young player.” 

Pokusevski drained his first-career 3-pointer Thursday night after missing his first 11 attempts from behind the arc. 

He finished with three points, five rebounds, four assists and six turnovers in 21 minutes. 

Thunder rookie Josh Hall scored his first NBA points with a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. Hall is on a two-way contract. 

“I told Josh, I think he does a great job of just keeping it simple yet being aggressive,” Muscala said. 

Welcome back 

The (piped-in) crowd went wild for Adams when he was introduced pregame. 

The Pelicans center and longtime Thunder fan favorite was an opponent at Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time, and he had to remind himself what team he was on at tip-off. 

“I tipped it to New Orleans and I thought I did the wrong thing,” Adams said. “It was just like this weird moment.” 

Then he remembered that Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball was indeed his teammate. 

“It was very bizarre,” Adams said. 

Adams scored 14 points with 10 rebounds, and he had a one-handed slam over Bazley in the first quarter. 

“The people here are amazing,” Adams said of being back. “And even just learning about the history of Oklahoma and how the community embraced me has been awesome. It was more like a deep sense of gratitude and pride and whatnot.” 

Adams’ return to Oklahoma City was the biggest story Thursday night, but there were plenty of other cool connections. 

Thunder forwards Darius Miller and Kenrich Williams chatted with their former Pelicans teammates before the game. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker shared the court in the fourth quarter. 

Eric Bledsoe, now on the Pelicans, caught up with Hill for several minutes before tip-off. They were teammates in Milwaukee last season. 

“Eric Bledsoe is one of my favorite teammates I had,” Hill said. “Like my little brother.” 

Getting chippy 

Hamidou Diallo and JJ Redick were called for double technical fouls with 3:13 left in the third quarter. 

On the Thunder’s next possession, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram swiped Roby’s head on a Roby dunk attempt. Ingram was assessed a Flagrant 2 and was ejected. 

Ingram left as the game’s leading scorer with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He also had seven rebounds and two assists. 

The Pelicans bench had plenty to say to Roby as he missed both of his free throws after the flagrant foul. Roby was on the court practicing free throws well after the game had ended. 

Ingram’s early exit had no impact on the result. 

The Pelicans outscored the Thunder 36-13 the rest of the way. The Thunder scored just seven points in the fourth quarter. 

Related Photos
Oklahoma City's George Hill (3) looses control of the ball as New Orleans' Zion Williamson (1) defends in the first half during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City's George Hill (3) looses control of the ball as New Orleans' Zion Williamson (1) defends in the first half during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b4c28d307d0f45364a487471ce730ed0.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's George Hill (3) looses control of the ball as New Orleans' Zion Williamson (1) defends in the first half during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title="Oklahoma City's George Hill (3) looses control of the ball as New Orleans' Zion Williamson (1) defends in the first half during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Oklahoma City's George Hill (3) looses control of the ball as New Orleans' Zion Williamson (1) defends in the first half during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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