OKC Thunder powered by their defense in win over Pelicans

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showcased his usual stellar chops and strides as the OKC Thunder defense haunted the New Orleans Pelicans to snag a crucial 110-96 win on Saturday night inside Smoothie King Center.

Gilgeous-Alexander dropped 35 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the floor and a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line. He also tallied six rebounds and tied his season-best four steals en route to the victory that knotted both teams at a 32-35 record and pulled them a half-game back of a play-in spot.

The OKC Thunder earned a massive win over the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to their defensive effort.

The whole Thunder was locked in defensively in the game, racking up a defensive rating of 95.4, way better than their defensive rating average of 114.0 this season.

The game was only the fifth time the Thunder have held opponents to under 100 points this season, as New Orleans’ 96 points are also tied as the second-lowest scoring output against Oklahoma City.

OKC Thunder also recorded 11 steals, compared to the Pelicans’ three. New Orleans also committed 22 turnovers, allowing Oklahoma City to score 23 points.

The Thunder saw their lead balloon to as big as 21 points in the first half, in which they clamped the Pelicans to just 22 points in the first and second quarters.

Missing stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum led the Pelicans’ second-half stand, cutting the once 15-point OKC lead in the fourth quarter to as little as nine with 5:30 left in the game.

Sharpshooter Isaiah Joe then doused water on New Orleans’ hopes with a 27-foot three-pointer before a flagrant foul call on McCollum, and some timely baskets from Josh Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander sealed the victory for the Thunder.

Giddey put up another efficient performance, finishing with 19 points on an 8-of-12 clip, seven rebounds, and four assists.

Jalen Williams, who returned for the Thunder after missing the last game due to a wrist injury, had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, together with three steals.

Joe, meanwhile, had three triples in the game on seven attempts to end up with nine points off the bench, a far cry from his lackluster 1-of-5 shooting from three in OKC’s blowout loss against the Phoenix Suns last Wednesday night.

“We held them off with sound execution on both ends,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said about his team after the game.

Next. The secret to Isaiah Joe's success. dark