First off, the Battle of the Diallos: Cherick (New Orleans) 15 points in 16 minutes; Hamidou (Oklahoma City) DNP-CD. The Diallos are not related, but hey, it’s something in an otherwise unexciting game, won by the Thunder 122-116, as was the first OKC/NOP game of the season, back in November. (The Pelicans won the second game, 118-114, in the Big Easy.) And really, the oddsmakers figured on this one being a runaway, what with Anthony Davis and Julius Randle out. out. But the other Birds stepped up, with Jrue Holiday kicking in 22 points and 13 dimes, Darius Miller with 21, Jahlil Okafor with 18, and Elfrid Payton 15 with 12 assists. Considering the Pels were down more than twenty at a couple of stages, losing by six probably didn’t annoy Alvin Gentry as much as it could have.
Meanwhile, the usual suspects did the point-gathering for OKC, with yet another Russell Westbrook triple-double (23-17-16), a double-double from Steven Adams (20-13) and another from Paul George (23-11). PG-13, incidentally, will start for the West in the All-Star Game in Charlotte; if it affected his play, I couldn’t tell you. The Pels did win a couple of statistical categories, most notably free-throw makes, in which they had an indifferent 8-12 for 67 percent. (Thunder? 8-15, 53 percent. Then again, neither side committed a whole lot of fouls, which should be considered a Good Thing.)
Things are likely to get heated Sunday, when the Bucks come to town. Milwaukee is 34-12, the best record in the entire league; they’re on a five-game winning streak, and they’re 13-8 on the road. By any reasonable reckoning, the Deer are downright dangerous. Whether the earlier-than-early start time (5 pm Central) makes any difference, I couldn’t tell you.