Two nights after a hard-fought defeat at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Oklahoma City Thunder got back on the winning track to end their week-long road trip on a high note.
Derek Fisher chipped in four points, three rebounds, three steals, and was a +14 in 13 and a half minutes as the Thunder defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 109-95, in New Orleans.
Like Wednesday night’s game in Portland, the Thunder used a strong second quarter to take a lead into the locker room at halftime.
After entering with the Thunder down two late in the first, D-Fish helped OKC build that halftime lead in the second. Early in the quarter, Derek was a magnet for the basketball, grabbing all three of his rebounds in the first three minutes of the quarter. All three of those boards led to points for the Thunder.
The first two free throws set up free throw line visits for Serge Ibaka where he tied the game, and then gave OKC the lead. After getting the third rebound, Fish pushed the ball ahead to Reggie Jackson, who sank a shot from 20-feet to make it 30-26 Thunder.
From there, the game went back and forth with seven ties and four lead changes. Derek got his second assist when he found Thabo Sefolosha for a layup that tied the score at 40. But neither team was able to secure a lead of more than three points until the end of the half, when back-to-back threes from Russell Westbrook and Jackson sent OKC into the break ahead by six.
Although the halftime was key for Oklahoma City, the Thunder knew it would mean little if they didn’t match the intensity in the second half, as they learned in Wednesday’s loss to the Blazers, when were outscored 35-21 in the third, which swung the game toward Portland. This time, OKC coach Scott Brooks made sure his players were focused and ready exiting the locker room for the third quarter.
“It was anybody’s ball game headed into halftime. We had to come out in the second half with a better defense stand, and I thought we played great defense,” Brooks said. “I liked our effort throughout the game. Everyone gave a good defensive effort. Their speed was hard to contain but we did a good job tonight.”
That defense held New Orleans to just 16 points in the third quarter, allowing the OKC offense to push the lead to double digits. Every Thunder starter had a hand in the big third quarter for OKC, with each one making at least one basket and contributing either a block or steal — in some cases both — to keep the Pelicans at bay. After the game, D-Fish, who did not play in the third, praised the efforts of OKC’s first five.
“I felt that in the third quarter, that first group (of ours) did an excellent job of continuing to establish a really good defensive tone and got some separation in the game,” Fisher said. “It was never really a home run type of situation. It was just methodically getting a defensive stop. In that fourth quarter, I thought that it was important that the group that was out there, we did the same thing.”
Derek’s play early in the fourth allowed the Thunder reserves to do just that. He picked up his third assist on a dish to Serge Ibaka just seconds into the final frame, and Ibaka’s bucket gave OKC a 14-point lead.
Later in the quarter, after New Orleans had cut the Thunder lead to single digits, D-Fish put in his only four points of the day on the same play, knocking down a three and drawing a foul. He completed the four-point play at the free throw line to make it 89-76, and Oklahoma City cruised from there to a 14-point win.
The Thunder head home for a brief visit and a significant game on Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City will play host to the Indiana Pacers, who come into the game with a NBA best 18-2 record. Tip-off of the marquee matchup between Eastern and Western Conference powers is slated for 6 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on Fox Sports Oklahoma.