The Big Picture
The Thunder’s tightly contested contest with the Pelicans featured 15 ties, 14 lead changes and a pair of back-to-back unlikely heaves from deep to determine a winner. A side-step 3-pointer from OKC’s leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tied the game with 1.7 seconds left, but it was a last-second 60-foot heave from Devonte’ Graham that gave the Pelicans the 113-110 win on Wednesday night.
Moments from the 48
A Wild Finish
Of the combined 29 ties and lead changes in the ball game, 13 of them occurred in the back-and-forth battle of the fourth quarter. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 12 of his team-high 33 points in the frame as Brandon Ingram also cashed in a dozen of his own. Neither team led by more than four points, and it came down to an unbelievable final five seconds of the game to determine a winner.
With just 4.7 seconds left in the game, Ingram steps to the foul line and sinks a pair of free throws to put the Pelicans ahead 110-107. The Thunder called a timeout to draw up a play on the inbounds. On the previous inbound attempt for the Thunder, New Orleans fouled immediately to deter a 3-point shot and force two free throws. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander kept that in the back of his mind as he worked to free himself from Garrett Temple.
On the catch, Gilgeous-Alexander took one dribble and a quick sidestep to the right, evading the arms of Temple and elevating for a 30-foot 3-pointer that fell through the rim with just 1.7 seconds left to tie the game at 110. Paycom Center erupted with elation and the Thunder bench exploded in approval.
“I knew they were going to try to foul because they were up three with a little bit of time left. So I tried to get away from the guy as fast as possible,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I wanted to go right because I know that’s my comfort zone and fortunately the shot went in.”
With no timeouts and less than two seconds left in the game for New Orleans, it seemed as though Gilgeous-Alexander’s bucket would be enough to send the game into overtime. However, in a wild turn of events, New Orleans’ Devonte’ Graham caught the ball on the inbounds took a single dribble and heaved up a prayer from the opposite 3-point line over the outstretched arms of Kenrich Williams. As the buzzer sounded, the ball banked off the backboard and dropped through the rim to give the Pelicans the 3-point lead and the win.
“Two great shots, crazy shots. In terms of us, I thought we did what we could do in terms of execution down the stretch of the game,” said Daigneault. “I thought we put ourselves in a really good position all things to consider, but when you lose a game that tight, that stings.”
“It’s hard to describe it. You have to tip your cap to them,” said Williams on the emotional ending to the game. “It was a matter of seconds you go from happy to ‘wow’. Just kind of a loss for words.”
With Lu Dort out of the lineup against the Pelicans (left ankle sprain), rookie two-way player Aaron Wiggins stepped into his second start of his career. It didn’t take long for the former Maryland Terrapin to display his energy and athleticism in the first quarter as he tracked down a missed bucket from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and slammed the put back through the rim.
Fellow rookie Tre Mann left his mark on the rim as well in the first frame. After catching attention with his one-handed slam against Dallas on Sunday, Mann followed up the performance on Wednesday with yet another high-flying jam, this time on a backdoor pass from rookie Josh Giddey.
TOMAHAWK TRE pic.twitter.com/S2khEf7ytF— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 16, 2021
“Tre's got bounce. I don't think a lot of people knew that but I mean, I think they know it now,” said Giddey. “Both [Wiggins] and Tre have been really good for us.”
K-Rich from Deep
Thunder reserve Kenrich Williams chipped in a season-high 17 points to go alongside a season-high five made 3-pointers. The fourth-year wing is usually the source for the scrappy, hard-earned second chance opportunities for the Thunder, but on Wednesday he was the beneficiary of multiple of those second chances baskets.
“It felt good. Feels good especially when the guys are hustling like that. The energy goes back to you,” said Williams. “I appreciate those guys and I appreciate those guys finding me tonight for the three ball.”
WHOLE SQUAD HUSTLE pic.twitter.com/tUq3qEk1Ao— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 16, 2021
Burst from the Second Unit
In addition to Williams, the Thunder’s second unit provided quite the spark to the tune of 52 points compared to just 26 for the Pelicans. Williams led the way with 17 points as Mike Muscala poured in another 16 of his own in a matter of just 14 minutes which marked the third time this season where Muscala has scored more points than he’s played minutes.
“Second unit was big,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Especially in the second quarter. They really opened the game up for us, gave us a comfortable lead and we were kind of riding that all night. They were huge in us being in the game tonight.”
YOU'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT pic.twitter.com/S3UHftx2GR— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 16, 2021
The Last Word
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the wild ending to the game…
“Being on this end of it sucks for sure, but it’s basketball, it’s life. Sometimes things don’t go your way and all you can do is control what you can control. We gave it our all tonight and unfortunately we didn’t come out with a win but we’ll look forward to the next game.”
The Thunder will have two days between games before wrapping up its four-game homestand on Saturday against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. The team then kicks off Christmas week in Memphis to face the Grizzlies on Monday.