NBA Basketball

Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
New Orleans 18 31 32 31 112
Oklahoma City 32 25 32 28 117
4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)01:0019:00 ET6:00 PM CT22:00 , December 26, 2021
Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  Attendance: 15,608

Pelicans seek fifth straight win in clash with Thunder

According to STATS
According to STATS

New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. The Pelicans have won three straight road games against the Thunder, tied for their longest road winning streak against the Thunder since they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008-09 (also a three-game streak from 2008-10).
  2. Brandon Ingram has gone from averaging 19.2 points per game in November to 27.7 in December, the second-largest increase (+8.5) by any player from November to December this season (minimum eight games both months) behind Orlando's Gary Harris (+8.5, fractionally higher than Ingram).
  3. Josh Hart is averaging 9.0 rebounds per game while shooting 62.3 percent from the field in December. In the last 30 years, no player 6-foot-5 or shorter has averaged 9.0+ rebounds per game while shooting 60.0+ percent in a calendar month (minimum five games).
  4. Oklahoma City currently ranks last in the NBA in points per game (99.6), field-goal percentage (41.4) and three-point percentage (30.7). The only teams to finish a season ranked last in the league in all three categories were the 1997-98 Warriors, 2002-03 Nuggets, 2011-12 Bobcats and 2015-16 Lakers.
  5. OKC is getting outscored by an average of 4.8 points per game in the first quarter this season, on pace to be the second-worst point differential by any team in any quarter in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55), behind the 2015-16 Lakers in the first quarter (-4.9).
  6. Josh Giddey is averaging 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game this season. Giddy is on pace to be the first player in NBA history to average 6.0+ rebounds and 6.0+ assists per game in a season while still a teenager at the end of the season.

After not having much success in tight games over the first part of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans have turned their fortunes around during their current four-game winning streak.

Over the Pelicans' first 29 games, they were just 1-9 in "clutch" games -- games where the score is within five points in the final five minutes.

But starting with New Orleans' 113-110 win in Oklahoma City on Dec. 15, a game decided by Devonte' Graham's 61-foot shot at the buzzer, the Pelicans are 3-0 in such games.

"We're growing," Graham said. "We really didn't know too much coming in -- how to finish games, who the go-to guys were. Defensively, we weren't communicating. Guys just started to get more confident and more vocal. We're growing as a team."

Sunday, New Orleans tries to keep its momentum going with a return trip to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City.

"I think early on in the season, we had close games, but we couldn't finish," the Pelicans' Josh Hart said. "In the fourth quarter, we got stagnant, we got slow and we weren't executing.

"We want to play fast, even in the fourth quarter. But if we're not doing that, we've realized we have to be precise in terms of execution and attention to detail to get to our spots, do it with pace and make reads. I feel like that's something we've done a great job of."

The Pelicans haven't won five consecutive games since a 10-game streak during the 2017-18 season.

The Thunder are coming off a 113-101 loss Thursday in Phoenix that snapped a three-game winning streak.

While the Pelicans have struggled much of the season with close games, Oklahoma City is 9-7 in clutch games. The Thunder are 2-13 in other games.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said his team relishes such situations.

"That's what's so encouraging about our team, when we're faced with challenges, it seems to bring out a spirit that shows that these guys see challenges as opportunities," Daigneault said. "Competition's not for the weary, so if you shy away from those challenges or you view challenges as a threat, then the NBA will chew you up and spit you out. We don't have a team that does that.

"We have a team that, when faced with challenges or when we get knocked down, our team sees it as an opportunity, sees it as a challenge. That's a really good place to start."

Since lifting the Thunder to one of those clutch wins, with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer Dec. 18 against the Clippers, Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has struggled from beyond the 3-point line, going just 2 of 18.

But Gilgeous-Alexander has found other ways to be effective, averaging 26.3 points, 7.7 assists and 7.0 rebounds over the last three games.

The Pelicans figure to be without Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Naji Marshall. The pair both entered the league's health and safety protocols before Thursday's game in Orlando.

New Orleans was also without starting center Jonas Valancuinas in that game due to a non-COVID-19 illness.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 25, 2021

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