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2013-2014 Game 79 Preview: Thunder play Pelicans with security on the line

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A win today would guarantee a lot of things, and the Pelicans' starting five is totally bogus. Let's avoid disaster!

Long live original Pierre!
Long live original Pierre!
William Bennett Berry

2013-2014 NBA Season
Lost 6

Won 2
April 11th, 2014
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
7:00 PM Central Daylight Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network New Orleans
Radio: WWLS 98.1FM OKC, WWL 105.3 FM New Orleans
Injury Report: Anthony Davis (Out), Eric Gordon (Out), Jason Smith (Out), Jrue Holiday (Out), Ryan Anderson (Out)
Previous Matchups: Dec 6 (W, 109-95)
Probable Starters
Brian Roberts PG Russell Westbrook
Darius Miller SG Thabo Sefolosha
Tyreke Evans SF Kevin Durant
Al-Farouq Aminu PF Serge Ibaka
Greg Stiemsma C Kendrick Perkins
2013/14 Advanced Stats
94.5 (22nd) Pace 98.0 (9th)
104.7 (14th) ORtg 108.0 (7th)
104.6 (16th) DRtg 100.8 (5th)

What are we playing for?

  • If San Antonio loses out and the Thunder win out, we get the #1 seed. The Spurs play Phoenix tonight, Houston on Monday, and the Lakers on Wednesday. Not likely, but the possibility is still there.
  • A win today would guarantee the Thunder the #2 Seed in the Western Conference. The only way the Clippers could get it is if they won out and OKC lost out.
  • A win today would guarantee the Thunder home court advantage in the finals. If Oklahoma City loses out and Indiana wins out, including their matchup on Sunday, then Indiana would take home court advantage in an NBA Finals matchup. If Oklahoma City loses out and Miami wins out, then they're in a dead tie for NBA Finals home court advantage. I don't know what the next tiebreaker would be, but let's all hope that we don't have to find out.
  • If the Thunder win out, they'll have the best record in OKC Franchise History.

What do we need to do to win tonight?

  • Not much. Since the loss of Anthony Davis against the Jazz on March 28th, the Pelicans have lost six straight. To their credit, they've kept it close against some legitimate teams. But when your best player is Tyreke Evans or Al-Farouq Aminu, a lot of stars are going to have to align for you to win in the NBA.
  • The Pelicans have no incentive to lose, though. Unless their pick miraculously makes it into the top 3, it will be heading out to Philadelphia. Losing out could push them over the Cavaliers and give them a better shot of keeping their pick, but doing so is still making sacrifices for unhatched chickens. For the long-term stability of the team, I believe the Pelicans want to win.
  • The Pelicans are going to go small early. Oleh over at The Bird Writes spoke in the Suns recap of the "unholy trio" that populates the Pelicans starting front line. Stiemsma, Aminu, and Evans have combined for atrocious numbers since Davis' departure, hurting the team almost universally over their past six games.
  • When the benches are in, the Pelicans will go big with Jeff Withey and Alexis Ajinca. Withey tends to feast on smaller teams and Ajinca spaces the floor, so I'm sure Brooks will sub appropriately.

Who the heck are some of these guys?

  • Brian Roberts is a speedy point guard who spent many years in Europe. His talent isn't quite at an extremely high level, but he can fake out slower defenders for easy points. In the right situation, he could have an Isaiah Thomas effect.
  • Darius Miller is a little-known 2012 second rounder on the second year of his contract with New Orleans. He's a decent mid-to-close range off-the-dribble scorer, and will out-hustle most players that he's put up against.
  • Anthony Morrow and Luke Babbitt are sharpshooters cast off from other teams. If they can do an effective job of spacing the floor, they could go on a run against the Thunder's bench.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, New Orleans Pelicans 96.

What do you think of tonight's game? Let us know in the comments!