Pelicans (23-36, 9-20 road) vs. Thunder (33-25, 21-8 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 6:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.0 (21st), Pelicans – 101.8 (27th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.7 (8th), Pelicans – 104.9 (9th)
Well, that was pretty good. I mean, it was the Los Angeles Lakers. But, they looked real good. Taj Gibson finished with 12 points and 4 rebounds, while Doug McDermott finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds. The biggest difference, though, may have been Russell Westbrook, who finished with a monster triple-double of 17 points, 18 rebounds, and 17 assists. He shot just 4-18, but the game was completely in the Thunder’s control.
In previous games where Westbrook struggled with his shot, the Thunder almost nearly depended on him either finding a way to get to the line, or hoping that the others would be able to somehow supply the missing offense that Westbrook usually provided. Instead of trying to bust through a wall like he usually does, Westbrook, instead, just stayed within the flow of the game, and allowed the others to control the game while he orchestrated it. The 17 assists were the most he’s handed out since the middle of December. It was just one game, against an inferior opponent, but the Thunder looked like a much better team on Friday than they did before the All-Star break.
Season Series Summary
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pelicans. The Thunder have so far swept the season series, winning the first 3 games by an average of 10+ points.
The Pelicans come into the game with a 23-36 record, having lost 2 games since their franchise changing trade that occurred on All-Star Sunday. In his two games in New Orleans, DeMarcus Cousins has averaged 19.5 points and 14.5 boards. Anthony Davis, on the other hand, is averaging 34 points and 11.5 rebounds. The front-court duo will definitely have its growing pains, but the results at the end should be very positive.
On the wings, though, the Pelicans face a different reality. Outside of Jrue Holiday, who has struggled in the two games after the trade, the Pelicans have no consistent wings. Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore are more miss than hit. And their reserve wings are even worse. One of the casualties of the trade for the Pelicans was the wing depth, of which the Pelicans were already lacking to begin with.
- Victor Oladipo (back) – Questionable
3 Big Things
1. Post Defense
Whew! This front-line just became the toughest to guard in the NBA. They still don’t know how to play with each other completely, yet, but when they do, watch out. For right now, though, the onus of defending these two behemoths will fall on Steven Adams and Domantas Sabonis. Don’t be surprised if the first reserve off the bench is Taj Gibson. This is where the trade will work out in the Thunder’s favor. The veteran PF has experience guarding every kind of PF in the league, and this should be no different.
2. Andre Roberson
With no wings to guard in this game, how effective does Roberson become? Maybe he guards Holiday throughout the game. But outside of that, Roberson’s strength will probably be muted in this game.
3. The Thunder’s floor spacers
All of the sudden, the Thunder have 2-3 players (if you want to include Victor Oladipo) that can space the floor. Alex Abrines made 5 three-pointers in his first start of the season. And Doug McDermott is a corner 3 maven. If the Thunder figure out where to put their floor spacers, the Russell Westbrook that the NBA sees now may become even more dangerous.