this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; With Kevin Durant returning to the Oklahoma City lineup, all eyes were on the reigning league MVP anticipating how quickly he'd reclaim his throne. Anthony Davis gave Durant a glimpse of the player who may be in the process of ...
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|12-03-2014, 12:32 AM||#1|
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Thunder vs. Pelicans: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014-15 Regular Season
With Kevin Durant returning to the Oklahoma City lineup, all eyes were on the reigning league MVP anticipating how quickly he'd reclaim his throne. Anthony Davis gave Durant a glimpse of the player who may be in the process of unseating him for good.
Davis had a double-double (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Tyreke Evans scored a game-high 30 points, leading the New Orleans Pelicans to an emphatic 112-104 victory over the Thunder to spoil Durant's return.
Davis, the likely MVP front-runner after the season's first five weeks, stuck daggers into the heart of the Oklahoma City defense from the outset. He scored 21 points and had nine rebounds by halftime, working tirelessly on the other end to alter shots near the rim.
The third-year star helped lead an aggressive Pelicans attack that shot 45 free throws and maintained a consistent lead after exploding for a 40-point second quarter. Evans took over for long stretches in the second half, scoring 15 of New Orleans' 27 fourth-quarter points. The lightning-quick guard continually beat Oklahoma City via dribble penetration and also added five assists.
Ryan Anderson, who came off the bench to have 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday (16 points, 10 assists) each finished with double-doubles.
New Orleans never trailed in the second half of a contest that largely failed to live up to its billing. The Thunder's trip, coupled with Durant's return, seemed like an ideal time for the 5-13 outfit to gain a game on one of the teams they're chasing. Instead, it proved obvious that Durant's reinsertion is going to be more of a process than an easy fix.
Durant missed the Thunder's first 17 games after suffering a Jones fracture in his foot during the preseason. He resumed practicing last week and was cleared to play after going through shootaround Tuesday afternoon.
Expected to be limited to around 30 minutes, Durant played exactly that and was unsurpisingly inconsistent. The reigning scoring champ hit three of his first four shots and appeared to be working himself into a rhythm, but was never quite able to take over. He finished with 27 points and three rebounds, also turning the ball over five times and struggling on occasion with defensive rotations. The Thunder were outscored by eight when he was on the floor, though that's a misleading stat dependent upon other factors.
"I know it's going to be a little bit different for me not having played ... and then going out there and playing the highest level of basketball," Durant acknowledged to reporters before the game. "But I'm looking forward to going out there and seeing where I am and playing as hard as I can for my team."
Looking rustier than Durant for most of the game was Russell Westbrook, who was appearing in his second game since returning from a hand fracture. Westbrook struggled mightily with his shot at times, needing 20 attempts to put up 21 points. Finishing near the rim appeared to present the biggest challenge, as he made just four of 12 shots inside the restricted area.
It was a far cry from the version of Westbrook that showed up Friday night against the Knicks, scoring 32 points and adding eight assists in only 24 minutes on the floor. The adjustment was apparent for everyone, as the Thunder offense went from periods of being unstoppable to confusing stasis.
"I know he's excited as well as everyone around here is," Westbrook told reporters regarding Durant's return. "It's good to get him back on the floor and getting to play with each other again."
Also looking out of sorts was Serge Ibaka, who struggled the entire night with the Davis assignment. Ibaka tied a season low with six points on 3-of-11 shooting, missing all three of his three-point attempts. His four blocks helped protect the rim, but he grabbed only three rebounds on a night when the Pelicans had an advantage on the boards.
Omer Asik led the way for New Orleans with 14 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end. The Pelicans scored 20 second-chance points.
More promising for the Thunder were the continued strong performances from Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb. Jackson, still adjusting to a move back to the bench, had 17 points and four assists on 7-of-14 shooting. Lamb finished with 15 points in 15 minutes, giving him three straight games scoring in double figures.
The Thunder reserves outscored the Pelicans 48-30, but when you have starters like Davis and Evans going off, it's easy to atone for a one-man bench.
While he took more of a backseat in the second half, Tuesday was just the latest monumental evening in a season full of them so far for Davis. He had his 10th outing of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds already this season, continued his development into a transformative defensive talent and pushed New Orleans closer to playoff contention.
“It makes you smile to see yourself becoming the player you want to be,” Davis told Scooby Axson of Sports Illustrated in his cover profile in this week's issue. “When people talk about the greatest ever, I want to be in that conversation. I’m nowhere close to it. No...where...close...But it’s where I want to go."
Davis is well on his way to getting there. Durant, who—to many—is already staking his claim among the best in history, didn't look far off from reentering the world's-best-player conversation.
It wasn't quite there for the Thunder on Tuesday, and it'll be a process until they're back firing on all cylinders. Well, at least a process that will take until Friday, when Oklahoma City plays the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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