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Jan 25, 2024 4:34 pm

Finely-tuned offenses clash when Pelicans face Thunder

The New Orleans Pelicans set a franchise record for points in a game when they beat the visiting Utah Jazz 153-124 on Tuesday night.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were not as prolific on offense but still put up 140 points in a 26-point road win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

The high-powered offenses will meet Friday when Pelicans and visiting Thunder face off in New Orleans.

Oklahoma City was completing a pair of games in consecutive days Wednesday and was much more efficient against San Antonio than it was in a 111-109 home victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.

After shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent on 3-pointers versus the Trail Blazers, the Thunder shot 56.3 percent from the floor and 45.0 percent on 3-pointers against the Spurs.

“We leaned on one another and solved problems together,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s the type of team we want to be. And I think the guys naturally gravitate to that, even when we’re a little off track.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had 32 points and 10 assists before sitting out the fourth quarter, said the Spurs started the game by “collapsing” from the weak side to cut off drives, but the Thunder adjusted.

“I think we got caught a couple of times early in the game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Once we started not taking the bait and moving it, they were spread out and we were able to get layups later in the game.”

Oklahoma City has won four straight games and eight of 10 as it remains neck-and-neck with Minnesota for the top spot in the Western Conference.

The Thunder defeated the Pelicans 123-118 in a first-round play-in game last season before they lost to the Timberwolves in their second play-in game.

But both the Thunder and the Pelicans are trying to avoid the play-in tournament altogether.

The Pelicans are in the thick of the competition for one of the top six playoff spots and can clinch the three-game season series against Oklahoma City by winning Friday. They defeated the Thunder 110-106 on Nov. 1 in Oklahoma City and the final meeting between the two teams is March 26 in New Orleans.

Pelicans coach Willie Green said the record scoring game against the Jazz was “incredible.” CJ McCollum led the way for New Orleans with 33 points, while Zion Williamson had 17 points and 11 assists.

“(They were) sharing the basketball, touching and kicking out for 3s, rebounding the ball,” Green said. “It goes back to our defense. When we can get stops, we can rebound, and we play in the open floor. It’s some of our best basketball.”

New Orleans shot 57.7 percentage from the floor, its second best this season. The Pelicans made 23 of 46 shots from 3-point range, falling just two made 3-pointers short of the franchise record it set two games earlier. They finished with a franchise-record 41 assists on 60 field goals.

“We were just sharing the ball, trusting each other, and taking a lot of shots with confidence, and making our threes with confidence,” said Herbert Jones, who had 22 points.

Their 46 3-point attempts were the second-most this season and the Pelicans have attempted 40 or more 3-pointers in their last three games.

“(That’s) our point of emphasis,” Jones said, “getting up more threes, opening up the lanes for our guys that get to the rim.”

–Field Level Media

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