The New Orleans Pelicans (27-23) are now 0-2 since DeMarcus Cousins went down. They lost their second home game in a row as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 114-103. Anthony Davis had another monster performance with 23 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and six blocks, but the Pelicans were simply overwhelmed inside by the unlikely duo of Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos. The Pelicans are moving quickly to address this frontcourt problem. They’ve already acquired Nikola Mirotic and are hot on the heels of Greg Monroe.
However, neither will be with the team for their visit to the Oklahoma City Thunder (30-22). The Thunder had their hearts broken last night as they fell to the Nuggets care of Gary Harris’ game-winning 3-point buzzer-beater. That shot spoiled a sensational showing by Paul George, who poured in a season-high 43 points on 19-of-26 shooting. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook had another truly ridiculous line as he finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, and 21 assists. Carmelo Anthony was quiet with just 10 points, but Jerami Grant came up big with 18 points off the Thunder bench.
Three keys to the game
Home-court advantage - The Thunder’s recent two-game road trip went just about as poorly as expected as they dropped both games. OKC just hasn’t been a very good road team this season. They’re a mere 11-14 compared to 19-7 at home. Five wins on their recent eight-game winning streak were at home, and four were by seven or more points. A return home should be just what they need to remove the stain of those back-to-back losses out of their mouths.
Interior battle - The Pelicans have missed DeMarcus Cousins badly. Since Boogie went down, they’ve been pounded in the paint. Even Kosta Koufos was able to punk them to the tune of 17 points and 17 rebounds. The Thunder have the type of big in Steven Adams who could be able to do a similar job of controlling the paint against the Pelicans.
Bench production - You never quite know what you’re going to get with either the Pelicans or the Thunder bench. Oftentimes, they don’t provide much of anything. But if one or two reserves are able to pop up and put up a big night, that may be enough to swing the game to one team’s favor.
Matchup to watch
Jrue Holiday vs Russell Westbrook - With Rajon Rondo struggling mightily of late, Jrue Holiday will likely need to cover Westbrook for most of the night. He’s unlikely to slow Westbrook down too much; hardly anyone in the league can. However, Holiday will still need to make Westbrook pay on the other end in order to mitigate the damage he does on offense.
Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG - Rajon Rondo | SG - Jrue Holiday | SF - E’Twaun Moore | PF - Dante Cunningham | C - Anthony Davis
Thunder projected starting lineup
PG - Russell Westbrook | SG - Terrance Ferguson | SF - Paul George | PF - Carmelo Anthony | C - Steven Adams
As expected, Anthony Davis has been a fantasy beast with Boogie out of the picture. He’s now recorded 59 or more fantasy points in four of his last five games. He dropped 36 points and 15 boards against the Thunder in their first meeting this season, and chances are he puts up similarly dominant numbers.
On the Thunder’s side, it’s not hard to imagine Westbrook, George, Anthony, or Adams to go off for a huge game given the deficiencies in New Orleans’ defense. Westbrook, in particular, has absolutely destroyed the Pelicans. He’s had a triple-double in four of his last five games against them, not to mention six 40-plus point games in his last ten.
The Thunder will be on the second night of a back-to-back, so expecting them to cover a 6.5-point spread still seems a bit dangerous. However, there should be points on the board, especially with the Pelicans so porous on defense and the Thunder also struggling on that end sans Andre Roberson. Take to total to go over 219 points.
The Thunder finally snap their mini losing skid by edging out the Pelicans in a shootout, 115-110.
This game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma and Fox Sports New Orleans. Tip-off is at 9:00 pm Eastern.