Tip-Off: 6 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F Anthony Davis has been a force for the Pelicans this season, and if New Orleans was having a better season, he would be a legitimate contender for MVP. Davis is averaging 27.9 points while shooting 50.1% to go along with 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. AD’s production has not changed much in the Pelicans’ two outings since the addition of DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento, but it is clear that the team is having some trouble with chemistry as they have lost both games. Davis will be a challenge tonight, especially since Cousins will also be on the floor, but the Thunder adding Taj Gibson should help with interior defense.
Keys to the Game
- 2nd Unit Success: In the three games against the Pelicans so far this season, the Thunder bench has been effective, and they will need to continue that trend tonight. Oklahoma City’s bench averages 35.6 points per game but has averaged 40.3 points against New Orleans, highlighted by a 52-point outing on December 21st in New Orleans. Enes Kanter and Alex Abrines both had solid games coming off the bench in that game. Kanter has returned from injury, so he may take a few games to get back into the flow of things. Abrines, on the other hand, started against the Lakers on Friday while Oladipo was out with back spasms, and he took advantage of the extra playing time by dropping 19 points on 7/13 shooting from the field, including 5/11 from three.
- Control Game Flow: Oklahoma City is fantastic when they can get out and run in transition, but the Thunder is prone to turning the ball over, which can disrupt game tempo. Both Oklahoma City and New Orleans like to get out and score in transition, but the Thunder is better at defending the fast break. In the three matchups so far this season, the Thunder has outscored the Pelicans in transition by an average of 7 points per game. As long as Oklahoma City can limit turnovers, they should be able to find success in running the fast break.
- Defend with Intensity: In New Orleans’ two games since adding Boogie Cousins, the Pelicans have struggled offensively, specifically in shooting and turning the ball over. Oklahoma City falls into the middle of the pack in the NBA when it comes to opponent shooting percentages, but in their last two games, New Orleans has made just 40.8% of their shots from the field and an abysmal 20.1% from three. The Pelicans have also turned the ball over 20 and 19 times in their last two outings, but Oklahoma City has struggled to force the Pelicans into turnovers this season. If the Thunder can apply pressure on the ball and force the Pelicans into taking bad shots or turning the ball over, that will open up opportunities on the other end of the floor, particularly in transition.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.