The Thunder have something very serious to prove tonight against the Pelicans. A sweep of the rest of season series would likely put OKC on the path to a playoff spot, and start to clear up the mountains of doubt that currently sit in many fans' minds.
But practically, it seems there's little hope of the Thunder pulling out a good performance. Aside from a couple of scrappy games, OKC has looked downright pathetic without Kevin Durant. Sure, they just racked up a win against Orlando and their about to be fired coach, but no one's talking. There's still tons of concern about the lack of shooting on this team and the lack of harmony on the bench, and everyone's feeling rightfully uneasy about this game.
A look back to the matchup earlier this season doesn't provide many positive thoughts. Here's what I wrote about why the Thunder lost that one:
"The first [reason] was poor late game execution. There was only one play in the final 5 minutes that wasn't heavily Westbrook-focused, and that was a mistake. Where the heck was Reggie Jackson and his good shooting percentages? Why not throwing Perry Jones a bone? Heck, why not even throw it to the ice cold Ibaka? Ibaka didn't take a single shot in the entire second half (save for an end of game tip attempt). I know 2-7 is a cold way to start off a game, but he needs to be involved in the offense.
The second factor in the loss was terrible play out of Collison and Perkins in second quarter. They basically allowed Alexis Ajinca and Ryan Anderson 8 points each, while wasting a few offensive possessions of their own. Over a 5 minute span. That's right, the Collison-Perk frontcourt gave up 16 points in a 5 minute span. If I EVER hear about Perk's defense again.....Also, Nick Collison looks like the oldest man in the world right now. His mind is clearly on point, but the execution just isn't there."
Taking those two things into account, keep in mind that Tyreke Evans has a history of good play against the Thunder. He's good at faking out his man and getting deep. But Evans will be playing at point guard tonight, so it will be interesting to see whether his dominance continues.
On OKC's side, the big names are Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson. Ibaka has played up and down as of late, but he really struggled in our first game against the Pelicans. Hopefully he can find space and hone in on Anthony Davis defensively. As long as AD is limited, I don't mind giving up a few extra points at the rim. Jackson has really struggled as of late, and may be on his way out of Oklahoma City before the trade deadline. Could a good performance here entice the Thunder to keep him on the books? Only time will tell....
Anyway, I don't have the heart to predict a Thunder loss tonight. I can't think of a regular season game I've cared so much about since 2010. OKC needs to get out of the gutter. And if they can somehow protect the paint, win the battle of the boards, and get Jackson's jumpshot going....anything's possible.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 100, New Orleans Pelicans 99.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2014-15 NBA Season Game 49
|February 4th, 2015
|The Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
|7:00 PM Central Standard Time
|TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network New Orleans
|Injury Report: Jrue Holiday (Questionable), Mitch McGary, Kevin Durant (Out)
|This Season's Matchups: Dec 21 (L 99-101)
|Perry Jones or Dion Waiters
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