The Oklahoma City Thunder (44-33) saw their current losing skid grow to three games as they lost another close game to the Denver Nuggets in overtime, 126-125. The slumping Thunder have now dropped four of their last five games, with all of those losses coming by just four points or fewer. Although, it should be noted that those losses have come against tough competition (Boston, Portland, San Antonio, Denver).
On the bright side for OKC, Carmelo Anthony finally broke out of his horrific shooting slump by dropping 23 points (9-21 FG, 5-10 3-PT FG) with nine rebounds against his old team. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook dropped 33 points with nine boards and 13 assists, but he could not capitalize on his opportunities to grab the win in crunch time.
The Thunder will be desperate to snap their skid against the equally struggling New Orleans Pelicans (43-33), who also dropped their third game in a row as they fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 107-102. Before that loss, the Pelicans also dropped games against the Rockets and Blazers. They have now dropped to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Anthony Davis had his worst game in a long while against the Cavs. He finished with just 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting with eight rebounds. Jrue Holiday tried to pick up the slack with Davis’ rare off day. The Pelicans guard had 25 points (12-18 FG) with six rebounds. Nikola Mirotic also had a strong night with 20 points and seven boards off the bench. However, it wasn’t enough to see the Pelicans overcome the streaking Cavs.
Three keys to the game
The Brow bounce-back game – The Pelicans have already won the season series against the Thunder by taking the first two games out of three, and they have Davis to thank. The Brow has been brilliant against the Thunder, dropping 39.5 points and 12.5 rebounds against them in those two meetings. He’ll be out to make up for his off night against the Cavs, which could spell bad news for OKC.
Melo momentum – The Thunder desperately need Anthony to play like a star again, especially with Paul George now suffering from his own shooting slump. Melo has not shot well in either game against New Orleans this season, but the Thunder will need him to carry that positive momentum he built up in the Nuggets game if they want to end their current slide.
Supporting casts – The Thunder and Pelicans are two of the more top-heavy teams in the league which makes the play of their supporting casts even more important. E’Twaun Moore has been a pivotal player for the Pelicans against OKC this season as he once dropped 26 on them to help New Orleans get the win on the road. On the other side, Jerami Grant has had at least 16 points in two of his last three games and could be the difference-maker the Thunder need off the bench.
Matchup to watch
Russell Westbrook vs Rajon Rondo – Westbrook has been known to lighting up the Pelicans for some monster games over the years, and Rondo won’t be able to do much to stop him from doing so again. However, the veteran point guard, who just came back from a two-game absence, has had a couple of big games recently and could at least help cancel out all the damage Westbrook causes on the other end.
Thunder projected starting lineup
PG – Russell Westbrook | SG – Corey Brewer | SF – Paul George | PF – Carmelo Anthony | C – Steven Adams
Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG – Rajon Rondo | SG – Jrue Holiday | SF – E’Twaun Moore | PF – Anthony Davis | C – Emeka Okafor
Apart from Westbrook and George, Grant will be an intriguing fantasy option. He’s scored 16 points in two of his last three games. One of his two double-doubles this season came against the Pelicans when he went for 12 points and 12 rebounds. Steven Adams will also be a strong candidate. He’s put up 19.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in his two meetings with New Orleans.
As for the Pelicans, Davis feels like a lock to bounce back from his disappointing performance against the Cavs. Rondo could also be capable of filling the stat sheet just like Davis. He did exactly that the last time he faced OKC as he had seven points, seven rebounds, 13 assists, and four steals. Before missing two games, Rondo had two games with at least 19 points, ten assists, and three steals.
The Pelicans may have won the first two games of this series with the Thunder, but the two teams are pretty evenly matched. It seems like just a matter of time before the Thunder get one over on Davis and co., and tonight’s matchup seems like just that time. Westbrook is bound to go off for a big game against the Pelicans while George is also due to shake off his recent slump. Take the Thunder as slight one-point road favorites.
The Thunder are the ones who snap their slump as they bring down the Pelicans in a tight 118-114 contest.
This game will be broadcast on NBA TV, as well as Fox Sports New Orleans and Fox Sports Oklahoma. Tip-off is at 6:00 pm Eastern.
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