The Pelicans will welcome our nemesis, the Thunder, Friday night to New Orleans Arena. Although they just lost to Portland and are 4-4 on the road, we've lost 9 straight games to OKC, our last win coming on January 24, 2011. Yes, that takes us all the way back to the days of Chris Paul and David West.
According to this year's numbers, the teams are quite similar on offense: rank top 3 in fastbreak points, possess identical effective field goal percentages (49.1) and average a hair over 103 points per game.
However, it's a different story on the other side of the ball. As to where we rank around the bottom five in a host of defensive categories, the Thunder sit largely on the opposite side of the spectrum: fifth in defensive efficiency, third in opposing FG% and first in defensive rebounds per game.
Despite all the glorious statistics, this team doesn't seem as formidable as it has in the past. Kevin Martin is now in Minnesota. Kendrick Perkins significant decline continues. And, most importantly, Russell Westbrook hasn't found his pre-injury form yet.
Moreover, Scott Brooks continues to experiment with lineups and has lately opted to finish games going very small: Jackson/Westbrook/Lamb/Durant/Ibaka. It's a very youthful and athletic finishing five but their defense has been quite porous to date.
They are giving up 1.08 points per possession, one of the worst among five-man Thunder lineups that have played any kind of significant time together.
Against the Kings, in the final 5 1/2 minutes, they were outscored 15-7, unable to contain shifty Sacramento point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Then against the Blazers, Brooks was forced to abort out of it down the stretch, replacing Lamb with Kendrick Perkins in hopes of containing a red-hot LaMarcus Aldridge.
In the article, Brooks goes on to say he'll continue with the small lineup so it just might end up playing into our hands. Hopefully, the Pelicans take advantage and execute better than they did against the Mavericks this past Wednesday.
UPDATE: Russell Westbrook is questionable for tonight's game due to illness.