Just when I was getting used to Thunder reserve Hamidou Diallo, who’s put forth some serious effort this year, I get to see New Orleans reserve Cheick Diallo, who is no relation. (C.D. hails from Mali.) Weirdly, both Diallos played about 10 minutes and scored four points. But this is the sort of thing you do when Russell Westbrook disappears into the locker room with a sprained ankle. And Anthony Davis was back for the Pelicans, but mostly he confined himself to avoiding getting called for fouls; most of the New Orleans scoring came from Jrue Holiday (22 points/14 assists), Nikola Mirotić (16 points/16 rebounds), and especially sixth man Julius Randle (26 points/8 boards). If these sound suspiciously like Thunder lines, well, things were close most of the night. It was 63-62 Birds at the half, though OKC jumped out to a 100-86 lead going into the fourth, despite losing Westbrook two-thirds of the way through. Then horribility ensued. The Pels pulled close; Dennis Schröder and Paul George swept through four free throws, and on the last New Orleans possession, Schröder took the ball away from Davis. OKC 122, New Orleans 116, and suddenly the team that dropped four games to start the season is now over .500, with the tenth game yet to come.
Before coming down hard in the third, Westbrook had 17 points and nine assists; PG-13 brought forth 23 points; Steven Adams (+22 for the night) had 18, and Schröder came up with 22. The Pelicans outrebounded the Thunder, 45-41, and very slightly outshot them (by 0.4 percent). Statistic worth noting: the Pelicans had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half — and none in the second.
The schedule now gets weird. Wednesday at Cleveland; at home Thursday against Houston; Saturday at Dallas; out to Phoenix on Monday. Too early to make any predictions, though I seem to recall saying that one year in Game #79.