Thursday, January 26, 2023
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NBA Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans

The Oklahoma City Thunder have overcome 16-point deficits in each of their three victories this season.

They might not have to worry about that big of a deficit Wednesday night when they visit the NBA-worst New Orleans Pelicans, who have lost seven straight games and have won just once.

The Thunder trailed the Los Angeles Lakers by 26 points before rallying for their first victory of the season and trailed the Lakers by 19 before rallying to beat them again last week.

In their last outing, they overcame an early 16-point deficit to beat the visiting San Antonio Spurs 99-94 on Sunday.

“It’s something for us to build off of,” said forward Darius Bazley, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Spurs. “I think we’re starting to see just how resilient we have to be, just how tough we have to be, to win these games. I think we’re going in the right direction.”

San Antonio scored the first nine points of the game and led 28-14 at the end of the first quarter as Oklahoma City tied its lowest-scoring quarter of the season. The Spurs still led 55-45 at halftime before the Thunder outscored San Antonio 34-14 in the third quarter to take control.

“I thought we did a good job of recognizing what that game required,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “They threw the first punch. They were the more physical team and to the credit of our guys, I thought we came out of halftime with the blueprint for how to go try to get the game and that’s what we did.”

Mike Muscala led Oklahoma City in scoring with a season-high 20 points in 14 minutes off the bench.

Bench scoring was a major problem for New Orleans in a 108-92 loss at Dallas on Monday.

The Mavericks’ reserves outscored the Pelicans’ subs 42-10 as center Jaxson Hayes was the only New Orleans reserve to score.

“I think I have to do a better job of having some of those young guys play with the starters,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “That was unfair to them.”

With Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Herbert Jones sidelined by injury, the trickle-down effect has limited Green’s options with his rotation.

“I still believe in our guys,” Green said. “This is part of what we have to go through as a team. No excuses. But we’re not healthy. We’re not whole. We really don’t know what we’re going to look like. But I believe this experience for guys is going to be so valuable going down the stretch.”

Williamson (offseason foot surgery) is out indefinitely while Ingram (hip contusion) and Jones (ankle) are day to day.

“We’re continuing to fight and play together,” Green said. “We’re sharing the ball. We’ve got to knock down some open shots. We just have to get over the hump and figure out how to claw and dig and win a game.”

The Pelicans are coming off a four-game trip and starting a three-game homestand in search of their first home win.

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