OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan has experimented with a three-guard lineup early in a rebuilding season. He had to go beyond that Saturday, due to injury, illness and foul trouble.
With starting center Steven Adams sidelined by a knee injury for the second straight game and backup Nerlens Noel getting into foul trouble, Donovan went with a lineup that sometimes featured 6-foot-10 forward Danilo Gallinari and no one else over 6-6 on the floor. It was effective enough to hold New Orleans at bay and propel the Thunder to just their second win of the season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 23 points and eight rebounds, and the Thunder beat the Pelicans 115-104.
Dennis Schroder and rookie Darius Bazley each added 17 points for the Thunder. Gallinari scored 16 points and Chris Paul finished with 15 points and nine assists.
”I thought it was a good team win because everybody contributed,” Donovan said. ”I thought at the end of the third (quarter) and throughout the beginning part of the fourth, we got really good play from our bench.”
Bazley saw his most extensive action, playing just under 19 minutes. Hamidou Diallo stepped up to play more than 29 minutes when starter Terrance Ferguson came down with flu-like symptoms in the first quarter, and he contributed 12 points, five rebounds and rim protection.Noel managed to navigate around his foul trouble to block six shots.
JJ Redick scored 17 points for the Pelicans, who were coming off their only victory of the season. The Pelicans played most of the game without leading scorer Brandon Ingram, who left midway through the second quarter with an injury.
Gilgeous-Alexander scored 10 points in the first seven minutes and had 18 at halftime. Bazley scored eight points in the third quarter. The Thunder took a 94-86 lead into the fourth quarter.
New Orleans cut it to 104-101 with 5:10 remaining on Redick’s 3-pointer, but Paul and Gallinari responded with back-to-back 3 and Schroder took control of the game in the final minutes on defense as Oklahoma City pulled away.
”I thought Chris and Gallo were really efficient tonight with the way they played,” Donovan said. ”I think everybody contributed today and that was good to see. Offensively, we continue to improve and get better.”
Jahlil Okafor took advantage of Oklahoma City’s lack of size, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, but he was ineffective down the stretch as New Orleans fell to 1-5.
”We keep turning the ball over; 17 turnovers for 23 points. You just can’t survive that, especially on the road,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. ”We’ve got to do a much better job protecting the ball. We’ve got to do a better job of getting back and getting our defense set. And then we’ve got to do a better job of executing down the stretch. We didn’t do those things.”
Ingram, who was averaging 26.8 points, appeared to try and intentionally foul Gilgeous-Alexander on a drive to stop play, but didn’t get a whistle.A few seconds later, on a dead ball, he came out of the game and went straight to the Pelicans locker room with an apparent head injury. He did not return to the bench for the remainder of the game, finishing with just seven points.
New Orleans is already missing rookie No. 1 pick Zion Williamson, who is recovering from knee surgery.
Pelicans: Lonzo Ball injured his ankle in the third quarter but was able to return to the game. He finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. … This was the first professional meeting between Pelicans guard Nick Alexander-Walker and Gilgeous-Alexander, cousins who played in prep school together. Alexander-Walker checked in at the 3:17 mark of the first quarter to guard Gilgeous-Alexander. He didn’t allow Gilgeous-Alexander to score in their first encounter but did pick up a foul trying to cover him.
”It was a surreal moment,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. ”It was something we dreamed about obviously our whole lives and for us to be able to actually live it out is crazy.”
Thunder: Adams is listed as day to day. Noel again was the starter in his place and blocked six shots in 23 minutes of action. … Billy Donovan made his first coach’s challenge of the season on a goaltending call against Noel in the second quarter. Donovan lost the challenge as the call was upheld after replay.
Pelicans: Stay on the road to visit Brooklyn on Monday.
Thunder: Host Orlando on Tuesday.
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