Thunder Defenseless Against Anthony Davis
By Randy Renner
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks called it a "tough night defensively" and it certainly was. The Thunder had few answers for Anthony Davis who scored a game-high 38 points on 16-for-22 shooting.
But over the last 2:58 of the game the Thunder held Davis and his teammates scoreless. Trouble was the Thunder didn't score a point over the last 3:46 and lost 101-99 to the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.
"Russell had a couple of tough moments late in the game," Brooks admitted. "But 99 points is usually good enough to win."
Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points, but he was just 10-for-27 shooting the ball. Six of those misses came in the closing minutes when he clanged three 3-pointers and three layups. Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson also missed shots in the last four minutes.
The Thunder got completely away from trying to share the ball coming down the stretch and for the entire game they recored just 17 assists. The Pelicans moved the ball all around the floor and were credited with a whopping 33 assists on 43 made baskets.
Still the defensive lapses stood out the most, especially since New Orleans was playing the second night of a back-to-back and coming off a blowout loss to Portland.
"All night they were getting around us with dribble drives and the help was late," Brooks noted. "We couldn't control the basketball."
The Thunder looked more like a team slogging through a back-to-back rather than one that was able to rest on Saturday and most of the day Sunday.
Kevin Durant missed his second straight game with that sprained ankle and that certainly didn't help matters. Brooks said agian before the game that the injury is just a mild sprain and it is not at all related to Durant's previous surgery on the same foot.
One bright spot for the Thunder was the play of Perry Jones who bounced back from a terrible performance against the Lakers to score 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
"My teammates just told me to be aggressive with the ball and that's what I tried to do," Jones said in the lockerroom after the game.
The Thunder also got another solid night from Steven Adams who picked up the third double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Serge Ibaka had a tough night on both ends of the floor, he was trying (unsuccessfully most of the night) to guard Davis and he struggled on offense scoring just six points on 2-for-8 shooting.
"It's not on Serge," Brooks said, "it's on all of us, we gave up a lot of easy shots."
With a win the Thunder would have finally gotten back to .500 but now at 13-15 on the season they face a red hot Portland Trail Blazers team at The Peake on Tuesday and follow that up with a Christmas Day trip to San Antonio.
A lot of those might be fixed with Durant's return to the lineup but at this point who knows when that will be.