Where They At: Oklahoma City Thunder
Three steps forward, two to three steps back. The Thunder are winning and losing in clumps, rarely putting together defensive efforts to match their offensive might. They’ll be trying to avoid their second three-game losing streak against the New Orleans Pelicans, a game after allowing the Memphis Grizzlies to score 120 or more in regulation for the first time since December 28, 2013.
Kevin Durant is still out, but his window to return is nearing and the Thunder have a chance to start their get-right tour early, with their next six opponents sitting at a combined .381 winning percentage at the moment. Taking the first from the lowly Pelicans would be the first step toward what should theoretically be a run of five or six wins. As much as you can "need" a win against a 1-10 team this early in the season, the Thunder need this one. While Billy Donovan isn’t on the hot seat, more and more people are antsy about the early returns from his coaching.
I am much more interested in what the team will look like when, say, Durant plays more than a dozen consecutive games (hasn’t happened since the 2013-14 season), or when the team is gearing up for the postseason. The Thunder are 2.5 games back from the two-seed, they’re without an MVP winner and they have a new coach. A lot of
Kyle Singler possessions things are going wrong, but the big picture is less alarming. However, these early testing periods early for a critical season can be a nightmare for a team. The 9-8 Miami Heat in LeBron’s first year there or the 5-7 Cleveland Cavaliers from last season are good examples of teams that were just fine, but early adjustments and pressure put the onus on the players and coaches to prove the doubters wrong.
Where They At: New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans look a lot like the Thunder did last season, with a putrid start (1-10) and a slew of injuries. The eerie similarities continue all the way to Ish Smith producing surprisingly well while the losses pile up, and now superstar Anthony Davis is nursing a mysterious shoulder injury.
It’s hard to be too critical of a team in shambles, but the crowning jewels from the Pelicans’ offseason aren’t panning out so far. Alvin Gentry hasn’t been able to work any offensive wizardry, and associate head coach Darren Erman hasn’t lived up to his defensive reputation in the least – the Pelicans are sporting a horrifying 110.1 defensive rating. Davis, the recently-maxed out phenom who many expected to challenge for the status of being the best in the game this season, has remained a low-key poor scheme/team defensive player, and he’s been inefficient on offense.
The Pelicans need this and many more wins if they are going to have any hope of returning to the playoffs.
The Pelicans took three of four in last season's series between these two teams, including the Davis buzzer-beater game that became the tiebreaker to keep the Thunder out of the playoffs. The Thunder will look to avenge those fateful losses against a beat up, sad basketball team coming to town on a back-to-back after getting crushed by the Denver Nuggets. They should burn the league-worst defense and middling offense of the Pelicans, especially if Davis misses this game.
Prediction: Thunder 123, Pelicans 97
|2015-16 NBA Season Game 12|
|November 18th, 2015|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City|
|7PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports NOLA|
|Injury Report: Kevin Durant (Out), Andre Roberson (DTD), Anthony Davis (Questionable), Omer Asik (DTD), Tyreke Evans (Out), Kendrick Perkins (Out), Norris Cole (O), Quincy Pondexter (Out)|
|This Season's Matchups: N/A|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Jrue Holiday|
|Anthony Morrow||SG||Eric Gordon|
|Andre Roberson||SF||Alonzo Gee|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Dante Cunningham|
|Steven Adams||C||Alexis Ajinca|