Key question in Thunder-Pelicans: Can Darius Bazley slow Brandon Ingram?

NBA Basketball

When the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans meet Wednesday in Oklahoma City, the Thunder’s Darius Bazley figures to spend plenty of time matched up with the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram.

While Bazley has struggled offensively this season, shooting a career-worst 37.6 percent from the field and 28.7 from behind the 3-point line, his defense continues to keep him in Oklahoma City’s lineup.

“I think the easiest thing is just to focus on things you can control,” Bazley said. “I put in the work every day. I find it easiest when I focus on things I can control — running, rebounding, defending.

“I think everything else will follow when you do that. I can’t really control when shots go in or not but all I can control is effort (and) energy.”

Ingram has been New Orleans’ workhorse this season and will be for the foreseeable future with Zion Williamson’s recent setback further clouding when — or if — he’ll play this season.

Over the last seven games, Ingram has averaged 27 points, 6.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds as the Pelicans have won three of those games after a 5-17 start.

New Orleans is coming off a 112-97 loss at San Antonio on Sunday, a game which Ingram had a neutral plus/minus but no other Pelicans starter was better than a minus-9.

“We’ve just got to be aggressive,” Devonte’ Graham said. “Obviously B.I.’s going to be B.I., but then when it’s me, Keil (Nickeil Alexander-Walker), J-Hart (Josh Hart), Sato (Tomas Satoransky) and Herb (Jones), we’ve got to be aggressive getting to the paint, making plays for one another and ourselves. Just take a little bit off him.”

Wednesday’s game will be the second of three between the teams this season.

Oklahoma City won the first matchup, 108-100, on Nov. 10 in New Orleans. Ingram did not play for the Pelicans in that loss.

The teams enter this game tied for the fewest wins in the Western Conference.

The Thunder come into the matchup having lost two consecutive games and 12 of their last 15.

A big part of Oklahoma City’s troubles this season, especially lately, has been its slow starts. The Thunder have been outscored by an average of nearly 10 points in the first quarter over their last five games.

“We’ve got to be ready to go,” Bazley said. “Everybody knows it. We’ve got to be ready to play from the jump. (It’s a) 48-minute game. We hear that a lot. Sometimes, I think we dig ourselves a hole and we’re able to dig ourselves out of it and it shows the fight in us but just being able to get out on teams early and stay consistent with that is something that we need to do.”

The Pelicans have struggled early in fourth quarters recently, including being outscored 7-0 in the first two minutes of the fourth in Sunday’s loss.

“We have to start the fourth quarters better,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.

The Thunder could be without Luguentz Dort, who left Sunday’s loss late in the first half with a sprained left ankle.

–Field Level Media

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