Preview 48 of 82: Pelicans @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Game Notes: Thunder / Pelicans
The Thunder (29-18) will be looking for their fourth consecutive victory tonight in Oklahoma City, facing the New Orleans Pelicans (22-26) at Chesapeake Energy Arena. OKC sits alone in third-place of the Western Conference and are coming off a big win over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. The Pelicans enter having lost three of four and will be without a bulk of their starting lineup — including All-NBA big man, Anthony Davis.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 11.5-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Alex Abrines: Active — IDK, guys
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Anthony Davis: Out — Finger
- Julius Randle: Out — Ankle
- Nikola Mirotic: Out — Calf
- E’Twaun Moore: Out — Rest
Pelicans: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Darius Miller, Solomon Hill, Jahlil Okafor
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What to Watch For
Taking Advantage. The teams have split the season series 1-1 thus far, with the Pelicans taking a 118-114 victory the last time they faced off. Anthony Davis put up a monster stat line of 44 points, 18 rebounds, and two blocks — but he won’t be much of an issue tonight, as he’s set to miss his third straight game with a finger injury. When you factor in the absences of fellow starters E’Twaun Moore and Nikola Mirotic, the door appears wide open for the Thunder. OKC did fall to the LeBron-less Lakers a week ago today, so anything can happen. That being said, a loss tonight could possibly be considered the worst of the season. Can’t lose this one.
Tired Pelicans. The Pelicans are on the second night of a back-to-back, as they lost 98-94 to the Detroit Pistons last night in New Orleans. The extra day of rest is another advantage for the Thunder.
Replacing The Brow. Replacing Davis is impossible — yet somehow made even more difficult when other starters are missing. Jrue Holiday will likely be the unquestioned focal point of their attack, as he’s averaging 21 points and 8.1 assists per game this season. Julius Randle is another name to watch — he’s posting 19.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, and has scored 20+ in each of the meetings with OKC this season.
*Nevermind — Julius Randle is a late scratch, as well. Another break for OKC.
Other, Other Guys. In addition to Holiday and Randle, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will step up for the Pelicans tonight. Elfrid Payton is capable of stuff but scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting last night against the Pistons. Jahlil Okafor can score but I fully expect Steven Adams to ruin his day down low. Darius Miller should step into the starting lineup in place of E’Twaun Moore and he’s good enough from long range (38.5 percent) to assume he’ll get his looks. Not a great deal of weaponry on this depleted Pelicans roster. Someone will need to step up in order for them to make it interesting.
MVPG. Paul George has scored 30+ in each of the Thunder’s last three games, including a 36-point effort on Tuesday against Portland. He’s raised his scoring average to 27 PPG on the season and is hitting on 38.9 percent of his attempts from long range. New Orleans gives up 114.8 PPG to opposing offenses (25th in NBA) and won’t have their best defender on the floor. No reason PG13 shouldn’t continue lighting it up.
Vintage Russ Pt. 2?: Despite his season-long shooting woes, Russell Westbrook looked vintage on Tuesday against Portland. While he was just 1-of-4 from long range, he was ultra-aggressive in attacking the rim. The strategy paid off with some monster dunks and frequent trips to the free throw line (he shot 10-12 FT), so it’d be encouraging to see him blitz the paint again this evening. Here’s to hoping the efficient effort from the stripe on Tuesday will inspire him to replicate the effort.
Three-Point Shooting: The Thunder have been one of the worst three-point shooting teams all season long, but have enjoyed an uncharacteristic renaissance period during this three-game winning streak. OKC has gone 38-of-83 (45.7 percent) from long range in the wins over Philadelphia, New York, and Portland. Terrance Ferguson is 8-of-15 in the span (53.3 percent) and would make Thunder fans very happy if he can keep it going tonight.