NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder pay heart-warming pre-game tribute to returning Steven Adams

  • 01/01/2021

The Oklahoma City Thunder marked the return of prodigal son Steven Adams with an emotional video montage, before the Kiwi centre repaid them with his best game to date as a New Orleans Pelican.

Adams was sent to New Orleans as part of a multi-team trade during the off-season, and played his first game in a different jersey at Chesapeake Arena on Friday (NZ time).

After being drafted by the Thunder in 2013, he played seven seasons in Oklahoma City, where he quickly became a cult hero. 

His inimitably Kiwi character was an instant hit with the team's fanbase, to which they paid tribute in a video they played inside the arena prior to tip-off.

The 27-year-old then proceeded to notch season highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds in a comfortable 113-80 victory for the Pelicans.

"I'm not that sentimental but obviously I still have a great appreciation for the city and the way they welcomed me," Adams said post game.

"The people here are amazing.. the way the community embraced me has been awesome.

"It was more of a deep sense of pride and gratitude."

Adams admitted he had to take a moment to recalibrate after the opening tip.

"Something just hit in my brain...I tipped it to New Orleans and for a moment I thought I'd done the wrong thing," he laughed.

"It was just this weird moment… very bizarre."

The Pelicans dominated the final stretch of the contest, outsourcing the Thunder 28-7 in the fourth quarter to open up what had been a tight game.

With Adams and Zion Williamson making things difficult down low for the Thunder, Oklahoma City focused its offensive efforts on the perimeter.

The Thunder attempted 29 three-pointers in the first half. Oklahoma City finished 15 of 48 from behind the arc.

Early on, that shooting was good enough to keep Oklahoma City in the game, as the Thunder hit seven 3-pointers in the first quarter.

But New Orleans grabbed the lead late in the first quarter and never relinquished.

The Pelicans hadn't done much 3-point shooting of their own until Ingram got hot and hit bombs just over one minute apart to extend New Orleans' lead to 77-65 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.

Not long after Ingram's three-point outburst, his night was over. As Oklahoma City's Isaiah Roby went up for a layup, Ingram came from behind and went for the block. Instead, his right arm swiped across Roby's face.

After a review, Ingram was ejected for a flagrant foul with three minutes left in the third.

Al Horford led Oklahoma City with 17 points, going 7 of 9 from the floor. Only one other Oklahoma City player scored in double figures, Mike Muscala with 10.

The Thunder have lost three consecutive games after winning their opener.