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Thunder vs Pelicans, preview and gamethread: OKC looks to win 4 in a row over injured New Orleans

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Can the Thunder put the hammer down against an Anthony Davis-less Pelicans?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Game: Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans

Time: 7PM CST

Location: Chesapeake Arena, OKC

Broadcast: FSOK

Counterpart: The Bird Writes

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Pelicans? Folks, more like Pelican’t, because I can’t see any way Anthony Davis stays in New Orleans past this season. The Pelicans have stunk for most of AD’s tenure until their impressive sweep of the Trailblazers brought them to the second round of the playoffs last year. Alas, Davis is looking for championships, not money or second round exits, and rather than building off last year’s finish, the Pellies have tumbled to a 22-26 record, a full 4 games out of the playoffs. There’s still time for them to turn it around, and their net rating suggests a better team than their record, but that’s going to be hard to do for at least the next week, as Davis is out with a fracture in his finger.

AD being out should mean a victory against New Orleans. But LeBron James being out should’ve meant a victory against the Los Angeles Lakers last week, and OKC instead led Kyle Kuzma and pals drop 122 points on them in regulation and then finish the job in overtime.

The Thunder’s defense has been in free fall recently- even on their current 3 game winning streak, the defense has been merely fine, not the elite level we’ve come to expect earlier in the season. You might expect an AD-less New Orleans offense to be a pushover, but they’ve actually been okay- the team has an offensive rating of 111.1 across all minutes Davis plays, which is an above average, if not intimidating, mark. And that makes sense. Even without Davis, the Pelicans have an All-Star level guard in Jrue Holiday. They have Elfrid Payton, who’s played quite well when healthy this year. They have the rampaging Julius Randle, who’s more than capable of putting up points. And they have...Jahlil Okafor??? Yes, Jahlil Okafor, erstwhile lottery pick of the process era Sixers, who’s put up 37 points and 20 rebounds across the Pels last two contests, where he’s started in AD’s place.

OKC will need to take this team seriously and build off their strong defensive performance against Portland. If they do that, they should handle the Pelicans.

If the defense is again lacking, however, OKC will need to win on the strength of it’s offense. Their offense, which has been mediocre to average all season, has been quite good since their embarrassing loss in Washington two weeks ago, a fact that’s been overshadowed by their dismal defense.

Russell Westbrook has yet to rediscover his shot, but he’s leaned into more of a facilitator role (by Russ standards), and his team has come through. Paul George has been a monster, continuing to force his way into the MVP conversation. Terrance Ferguson has hit 50% of his 3’s in January. Steven Adams has been a little quiet, taking nearly 2 less shots per game than he did to start the season (those extra Ferguson 3’s had to come from somewhere), but he’s hitting the shots he gets. The Thunder do have the power to win a shootout.

But it’ll be a lot easier if they can lock down defensively, particularly during the 2nd quarter where OKC is often surrendering leads. That shouldn’t be too much to ask against a sub-.500 team playing without it’s star player.

Poll

Who do you think will win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Thunder
    (42 votes)
  • 2%
    Pelicans
    (1 vote)
43 votes total Vote Now