Time: 8:00 PM CT
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (30-22) is on the second night of a back-to-back, facing the New Orleans Pelicans (27-23) less than 24 hours after a buzzer-beating loss in Denver. The Thunder has lost two straight after reeling off an eight-game winning streak, suddenly finding itself just a half-game up on the Portland Trail Blazers for fifth place in the Western Conference.
While the Thunder is still struggling to find its way after losing Andre Roberson for the season, the Pelicans are facing a very difficult road ahead in the wake of DeMarcus Cousins’ torn achilles. The Pelicans traded for Nikola Mirotic just yesterday, but won’t have access to their new toy tonight in Oklahoma City. As such, New Orleans will have just 10 men available against OKC. The Thunder will certainly be dealing with fatigue, but has a clear advantage in manpower alone.
Tip-off is at 8:00 PM CT at Chesapeake Energy Arena and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is an 8.5-point favorite according to OddsShark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- DeMarcus Cousins: Out — Achilles
- Alex Ajinca: Out — Knee
- Solomon Hill: Out — Hamstring
- Frank Jackson: Out — Foot
- Nikola Mirotic: Inactive
Pelicans: Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Dante Cunningham, Anthony Davis
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Thunder O & D
Pelicans O & D
11/20: NOP 114, OKC 107 [BOX SCORE]
Shorthanded Pelicans. With four players out due to injury and Nikola Mirotic unavailable, the Pelicans will roll out a patchwork rotation tonight in Oklahoma City. New Orleans is 0-2 since losing DeMarcus Cousins for the season, surrendering 113 PPG while only scoring 103 (season-average is 110.8). The Thunder has had some terrible starts this week against Washington and Denver, but should be able to take care of business against the wounded Pelicans.
Thunder Fatigue. OKC is on the second half of a back-to-back and playing its third game in four nights — fatigue will very likely be a thing. Considering last night’s game in Denver didn’t end until nearly midnight Oklahoma time, and the fact that Westbrook (39), George (36), Melo (34) and Adams (32) all logged considerable minutes, the potential for collapse is there.
Slowing the Brow. Anthony Davis is the focal point of the Pelicans’ attack with Cousins no longer in the picture. Davis is averaging 26.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks on 54 percent shooting, so stopping him entirely just won’t happen. However, the absence of Cousins will allow the Thunder bigs to consolidate their defensive effort. It will take a village.
Offense/Defense. The Thunder has averaged nearly 120 PPG over the last eight games, including last night’s 124-point effort in Denver. But as the Nuggets proved, a good offense doesn’t mean much if your defense can’t stop anyone. I’d expect the Thunder offense to take advantage of the short-handed Pelicans — it’s on the defense to make it count.
Keep Paul George Cooking. Paul George went for a season-high 43 points last night, hitting 19 of his 26 shot attempts. After a January that featured a very silent PG13 in the second half of games, he went 12/16 after halftime last night — even making the game-tying shot with just 1.4 seconds remaining. He looked as dominant as he has all season, which hopefully serves as a springboard for another solid performance tonight.
Mas Abrines? Terrance Ferguson left after four minutes last night in Denver, missing the rest of the game due to a stomach bug. He’s not on today’s injury report and figures to rejoin the starting lineup, but Alex Abrines played well in his absence. Abrines logged 29 minutes and scored 13 points on 4/7 shooting. My assumption is that he sees double-digit minutes again tonight and plays justttt well enough to make people uneasy about trading him.
In Their Words. In David Brandon’s “Fraternizing with the Enemy” piece from this week, Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Street Shots said Jrue Holiday is the player to watch for the Pelicans:
“Jrue Holiday, since he’ll be tasked with the challenge of defending Russell Westbrook. Holiday has arguably been a top-10 defender in the league this season. No one can stop Russ, but if Jrue can make his life more difficult, it’ll help.”