Outperformed and undermanned have been the latest forces facing the New Orleans Pelicans, with stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram out once again in a Saturday night 110-96 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Behind 22 turnovers, a 63-44 halftime deficit, and being 9-21 in their last 30 games since Williamson got hurt after starting with a Western Conference-best 23-12 record, the downward spiral for the Pelicans has been apparent.
The Pelicans also recently lost point guard Jose Alvarado, MVP of the Futures Game during the All-Star break, and power forward Larry Nance, Jr. for at least the next two weeks until evaluation. Following Saturday’s loss, New Orleans now sits even with Oklahoma City at 32-25 and is a half game behind Utah for the final play-in spot with 15 regular season games left to play.
Oklahoma City outscored New Orleans convincingly in the first half, taking a 63-44 lead into the locker room and never allowing the Pelicans to come closer than nine points in the second half. Point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 35 points without shooting a single three-pointer. He shot nearly 50% from the floor while shooting guard Josh Giddey scored 19 points on 8-12 shooting.
CJ McCollum led the Pelicans with 26 points on 8-20 shooting with seven rebounds and eight assists. Although New Orleans outrebounded Oklahoma City 43-38 and had a higher three-point percentage (35.3%), the team stayed in foul trouble with all five starters being called for at least three personal fouls.
Next up for the Pelicans will be a Sunday night matchup against Portland at 6 p.m. CT in New Orleans.