Thunder (13-4, 4-4 road) vs. Pelicans (9-9, 5-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.2 (12th), Pelicans – 108.6 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.0 (5th), Pelicans – 106.9 (24th)
Pace: Thunder – 96.5 (5th), Pelicans – 93.2 (17th)
With Anthony Davis out, this goes from a potentially dangerous game against a rising team to a potentially dangerous game against a wounded team. The Pelicans still have some quality talent in Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday an Ryan Anderson, but they’ve been extremely inconsistent this season. Offensively, they’re solid. The defensive end is what has held them back.
This one wraps up a quick little road trip and what’s ahead is a big one against the Pacers on Sunday. The NBA isn’t really a league where you overlook an opponent because the games come so rapid fire, but surely the Thunder have glanced out the corner of their eye to know what’s next. And heading into that one 2-1 from the road trip instead of 1-2 would certainly be a boost.
The game against the Blazers was a tough, physical one, and the second of a back-to-back. So this is three games in four days, so energy and effort could be something to watch for. The Pelicans are trying to tread water until Davis gets back and while the Thunder are the better team either way, it feels like a dangerous night.
New Orleans coming in: Lost on Wednesday to the Mavs
Three Big Things
1. Russ West 44. He’s questionable for tonight’s game because he was feeling a little under the weather. Him playing increases the Thunder’s chances of winning. That’s science.
2. 3-point shooting. The Pelicans aren’t a big paint team to start with, but without Davis, they really rely on the perimeter. Anderson is going to be a tough cover for Serge Ibaka and Gordon can fill it up. He won’t, but a starting lineup change would probably do the Thunder good, going with Ibaka at center and Durant at 4 from tip-off. Because playing two bigs tonight probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Pelicans have one center on the roster (Jason Smith), and he’s not all that much of a threat.
3. Bench. Without Davis, the Pelicans have to reshuffle, and it’s made their already spotty bench even spottier. Tyreke Evans could be a problem, but after that, there’s not a lot to be concerned with. The Thunder’s second unit has a chance to create some distance and be a real weapon tonight.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Friday.