OKLAHOMA CITY — New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry labeled the final two minutes of the third quarter a disaster.
The Pelicans had their chance to end a miserable road trip on a high note.
Oklahoma City superstar Russell Westbrook minutes before left the game with a left ankle sprain, shocking his Thunder teammates and hometown fans and the Pelicans chipped away at a seven-point deficit late in the third.
But that was short-lived.
The Thunder erupted, the crowd’s intensity grew and the Pelicans fumbled the ball away.
Four straight turnovers, two leading to runaway dunks. The Thunder’s lead ballooned to 14.
So the Pelicans' losing streak ballooned to six games with a 122-116 loss to the Thunder on Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It’s hard to recover from that — at home or on the road,” Gentry said.
The Pelicans have lost six straight. Their next shot to end the skid is Wednesday night against Chicago, a welcome return home after a five-game road trip that proved frustrating.
Gentry remained calm following the game, especially after the Pelicans rallied within two with 23.3 seconds remaining only to fall short.
“We’ve got 72 games left,” Gentry said. “Yeah, we’re disappointed in a road trip like this because I think anytime you’re playing in the West you don’t want to have these losing streaks at all.
“It is what it is, so we have to go back and regroup, we have a couple games at home to try to right the ship and then we’re back on the road again.”
Throughout the road trip, the Pelicans played from behind too much.
Against the Thunder, the Pelicans turned it over 21 times, allowing 28 points. The Thunder turned it over just 12 times, leading to a dozen points.
The Pelicans still found ways to remain in the game.
They battled back from a 10-point deficit in the first quarter to take a one-point halftime advantage. But the Thunder’s offense came alive in the third quarter, particularly after Westbrook’s injury.
Backup point guard Dennis Schroder scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as Westbrook remained in the locker room. Schroder kept the game just out of reach.
“When the fourth quarter started and we started to battle back, it’s too high of a mountain to climb — especially against a team that good, even without Westbrook,” Gentry said.
New Orleans’ Julius Randle was perfect off the bench, hitting all 10 shots and scoring a game-high 26 points. Jrue Holiday scored 22 and Anthony Davis added 20 despite a 7-for-20 shooting night.
But they couldn’t overcome the final stretch. Davis had two crucial turnovers late.
He lost the ball, leading to a Hamidou Diallo dunk and 95-84 lead. Then Davis followed that with a traveling call while holding the basketball.
Schroder followed with a driving layup. And the Pelicans hopes of ending the skid were dashed.
“They got momentum, got a couple steals, a couple big dunks and from there the momentum — especially in this building how loud it gets — is hard to cut off,” Holiday said. “I think we did a good job fighting hard, bouncing back, but at that point it’s hard to have everything go perfect to get the lead.”