Time: 7:00 PM CT
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
With a 7-8 record and coming off another late-game collapse, the Thunder has found more questions than answers in the early part of the 2017-18 season. Oklahoma City had won three straight before blowing a 23-point lead in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs last Friday night. The defeat magnified what’s become a major issue through 15 games — the Thunder has no problem starting strong, but simply cannot finish.
The road doesn’t get much easier tonight, as the Thunder is in New Orleans to face an 8-8 Pelicans team that presents possible match-up nightmares. Facing a front court that features Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the Thunder will need to slow down the two All-Stars while simultaneously trying to correct an offense that is far better in theory than it has been in application. OKC will also need to figure out how to play defense after halftime, as teams have routinely made light work of the Thunder in the third and fourth quarters.
Tip-off is at 7 PM CT on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
- Anthony Davis: Active — Concussion
- Tony Allen: Questionable — Knee
- Alexis Ajinca: Out — Knee
- Omer Asik: Out — Illness
- Solomon Hill: Out — Hamstring
- Frank Jackson: Out — Foot
Pelicans Starters: Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, Dante Cunningham, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins
D- Rating: In regard to OKC’s inability to finish, the team’s defensive rating by quarter is something to marvel at. The Thunder has an 84 DRTG in the first quarter, 98 DRTG in the second, 103.7 DRTG in the third, and a 109.8 DRTG in the fourth. If you single out clutch time by itself, the DRTG balloons to 150.8. The key tonight is not only starting strong, but also continuing to play defense after halftime. (h/t Jon Hamm)
Stop! He’s Already Dead. The Pelicans’ last game was a 32 point loss to the Nuggets last Friday night. The NOLA defense gave up 146 points in the contest — the highest point total for any team this season. The Pelicans are surrendering 110.6 PPG so far this season — 27th in the league — so there’s hope for a Thunder offensive renaissance in this one.
Big Problems. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins present a monster issue for the Thunder defensively — particularly Davis at power forward. Carmelo Anthony should not guard him for any extended period of time, so OKC will likely throw an array of looks at him on the defensive end. The 24-year-old has a stat line of 25.1 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks so far this season.
Boogie Frights. DeMarcus Cousins has been superb, averaging 27.1 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks. He’s also shooting 46 percent from the field and carries a 34 percent conversion rate from downtown. However, his head-to-head numbers against Steven Adams are far lower — he’s shot just 38 percent from the field and 21 percent from downtown in 12 career match-ups. Here’s to more of that.
Rondo Minutes. Rajon Rondo will be making his fourth appearance for the Pelicans, and is expected to log 24-26 minutes tonight. He’s slowly being worked back into the rotation after returning from a groin injury, and recorded 13 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds in 13 minutes in the Pelicans’ last game.
Preseason Results. The two teams met in the preseason, with OKC taking a 102-91 victory. [Box Score.]
Steven Adams on facing bigs that can stretch the floor. Via Fred Katz.
Anthony Davis discusses facing the Thunder. Via Pelicans.