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2013-2014 Game 18 Preview: Thunder Face Rattled Pelicans

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The loss of Anthony Davis has the Pelicans off the radar for some, but this team can still compete with anyone.

Hid your kids, hide your wife!
Hid your kids, hide your wife!
William Bennett Berry
2013-2014 NBA Season
Lost 1

Lost 1
December 4th, 2013
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana
7:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network New Orleans
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), WWL 105.3 FM
Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Questionable), Anthony Davis (Out), Greg Stiemsma (Out)
Previous Matchups: None (Thunder Won Last Season's Series 4-0)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Jrue Holiday
Thabo Sefolosha SG Eric Gordon
Kevin Durant SF Al-Farouq Aminu
Serge Ibaka PF Ryan Anderson
Kendrick Perkins C Jason Smith
2013/14 Advanced Stats
99.4 (6th) Pace 96.6 (T-19th)
103.6 (T-10th) ORtg 105.5 (5th)
98.6 (5th) DRtg 103.4 (T-23rd)

The Pelicans were a sneak pick for a lot of NBA analysts heading into this season. They've got a bunch of young talent on their roster, picked up the legitimate point guard they needed over the off-season, and would have been pretty good earlier if their players weren't constantly injured. The Pelicans have managed to compete so far, but, predictably, the injury bug has stayed with them. As you probably know, Anthony Davis is out a few weeks with a broken hand, and Ryan Anderson missed the first two weeks of the season with a fractured toe.

All things considered, the Pelicans have weathered the storm quite well. Since Davis' departure, they've beaten the similarly rattled Bulls and played the Mavericks to the final horn. How? Well, consider that Ryan Anderson is shooting a ridiculous 53% from three, and that bench man Eric Gordon is shooting it similarly well, knocking down 46% of his attempts. You can also look at Al-Farouq Aminu, who has seen his role increase in Davis' absence. He got a ridiculous 21 boards two nights ago against Dallas, and both of his past two games have been season highs. In essence, he can function as Anthony Davis-lite.

The flaw of this Pelicans team is that they're young and full of specialists. In terms of being young, they're prone to shooting themselves in the foot in certain categories, like having a really bad night on the boards or shooting really poorly from the field. The second reason hasn't occurred since Anderson joined the team, but it could still happen if a few guys happen to have off-nights. It might sound like I'm talking in sweeping generalities, but consider this: The Pelicans beat the Lakers by 11 on November 8th, then lost to them by 21 on November 12th. Put simply, the Pelicans are really inconsistent, and we have no way of knowing how well this team will show up.

On the Thunder's side of things, Russell Westbrook has a minor illness and will be questionable for tonight's game. Should Reggie Jackson get the start, the Thunder offense will become a lot more slow-paced and deliberate. I'd prefer to see Russ in there, for the simple fact that the Pelicans generally get outscored when they lose, and the Thunder can probably run them off the floor.

All in all, tonight's game should be competitive until at least the late fourth quarter. I'm going with the Thunder just because I don't think the Pelicans are as strong as they once were, and because they've got to be fired up after losing to Portland.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 102, New Orleans Pelicans 96.

What do you think is going to happen in tonight's game? Let us know in the poll and comments!