On par with the season’s theme, the New Orleans Pelicans gave up a six-point halftime lead Wednesday night, falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-118 in a single-elimination play-in game.
Rewind to four months ago and the Pelicans were on top of the Western Conference only to fall – and fall quickly – out of playoff contention with the loss of star Zion Williamson and Jose Alvarado. Some late-season heroics put them back into the playoff picture just in time for the regular season’s end.
“It’s important to have your guys on the floor,” New Orleans head coach Willie Green said. “It helps your team reach its potential. We didn’t do that this season.”
Despite a 63-57 lead going into the locker room, the Pelicans were outscored by the Thunder 39-24 in the third quarter. Then, in the fourth, Brandon Ingram hit a three-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to give New Orleans a slim chance to come back, but after a Herbert Jones turnover, Oklahoma City secured the victory.
Leading the way for the Thunder were Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (32 points, 5 rebounds) and Josh Giddey (31 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists). Ingram led the Pelicans with 30 points, 20 of which came in the second half, while Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 18 rebounds.
As the season comes to an end for New Orleans, Oklahoma City will move on the face Minnesota on Friday with the winner earning the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.