NEW ORLEANS (AP)Lu Dort capped off one of his better shooting nights of the young season with three clutch free throws and a dunk to punctuate Oklahoma City’s third straight victory.
Dort scored 27 points, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 24 points, and the Thunder beat the reeling New Orleans Pelicans 108-100 on Thursday night.
”I feel like I just had to go up strong,” Dort said, adding that Thunder guards ”did a good job finding me just cutting to the basket. … When I get to the line, I just got to be confident.”
Dort made nine of 10 free throws, his final three coming after Nickeil Alexander-Walker fouled him on the perimeter as the shot clock expired with 2:18 to go, giving Oklahoma City a 101-90 lead.
”Happy for him, not surprised though,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of Dort. ”We’ve seen him have ups and downs and he’s a resilient guy. He just keeps competing. So, we knew he’d break through at some point.”
Darius Bazley scored 14 points and Matt Muscala added 12, making all three 3-pointers he attempted.
Jonas Valanciunas had 25 points and 15 rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost their eighth straight while falling to 1-11.
”We’ve all got to be better,” Valanciunas said. ”I know that sounds like a broken record, but we’re not going to give up.”
Alexander-Walker scored 33 points and Devante Graham scored 18 for New Orleans, which entered the game without star players Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram and became further short-handed when veteran Josh Hart was ejected in the first half.
”The guys who were on the floor competed,” Pelicans first-year coach Willie Green said. ”But it’s not enough. When, No. 1, we’re not healthy and we’re losing guys, it’s not enough. We all have to be in it together. If we lose one main guy like we did tonight, it hurts.”
Still, the Pelicans led 67-65 in the third quarter after Graham fed Jaxson Hayes for a cutting dunk. The Thunder took over with a 20-4 run to close out the period and led by as many as 21 points when Kenrich Williams’ jumper made it 96-75 with 7:51 to go.
The Pelicans again rallied back as close as five points when Alexander-Walker, who scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, made two free throws with 1:08 left. But Gilgeous-Alexander — who is Alexander-Walker’s cousin – answered with a 9-foot pullup and the Pelicans did not threaten again.
”I didn’t think Shai had a rally good night relative to what he’s capable of and yet he still he still finds ways to impact the game,” Daigneault said. ”That’s what good players do. They have good bad days.”
Meanwhile, Gilgeous-Alexander said of his cousin: ”I’m happy he played well and I’m happy he lost.”
Thunder: Rookie Josh Giddey, the sixth overall pick in last summer’s draft, had 12 rebounds, nine assists and seven points, frustrating New Orleans with a slew of hustle plays. … Derrick Favors scored nine points in 21 minutes.
Pelicans: Ingram, one of New Orleans’ top scorers the past two seasons, missed his sixth straight game with a bruised hip. ”It’s more, he’s still feeling it,” Green said before tip-off. ”We don’t want to put him out there with him still feeling some pain. He does a really good job of just kind of being aware where he is as far as how his body feels. When the medical staff and Brandon feel like he’s a go then he’ll be a go. Until then, you just don’t want to rush him back.” … The Pelicans fell to 0-5 at home.
The Pelicans led 39-31 after Kira Lewis Jr.’s dunk in the second quarter, but then started to unravel in more ways than one.
Consecutive layups by Josh Giddey initiated a 15-0 Thunder run during which the Pelicans were called for the first two of five technical fouls they were assessed in the period.
Hart lost his cool after being called for a foul as Dort jumped over his back to grab a rebound and both players crashed to the floor. Official Scott Foster assessed Hart a technical foul for arguing the call, and then ejected him with a second technical moments later as Hart continued angrily voicing his displeasure.
”I felt like I went up straight,” Dort said. ”He kind of hit me on my leg. I mean, it could have went both ways but I felt like Scott has been there for a long time. He knows what he’s doing.”
Thunder: Host Sacramento on Friday night.
Pelicans: Host Brooklyn on Friday night.
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