The Pelicans are in an interesting place at this moment and time. I honestly don't want to say this team should tank, but with San Antonio, Phoenix twice, The Clippers and Utah, things could get real ugly for the Pelicans. Or good, depending on which side of fence you stand on. It starts with this game against Oklahoma City.
After an injury-riddled season last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have started 6-5 and look to recreate their 2010-2011 season. Kevin Durant missed the last three games, but averaged 28.1 points and 7.3 rebounds prior. Russell Westbrook has held up the roster with averages of 26.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 10.6 assists. Serge Ibaka is great, the coaching staff seems to want Dion Waiters to get touches and Enes Kanter doing all the offensive things and none of the defensive work.
Injuries are one of the most interesting developments for this game. Durant was last listed as questionable, but odds are, he'll play. Anthony Davis, though? I'm not so sure. Davis injured his foot against Denver and left the game. At last report, he's also been listed as questionable. Jrue Holiday will be out against OKC for rest purposes.
Against Denver there was some things to like and take out of it. Ryan Anderson put together a great game, scoring 24 points and grabbing six rebounds in extended time. He's yet to find it from beyond the arc, but was effective in that mid-range area, even hitting a few Dirk-esque shots. Ish Smith was also fine, hitting six of nine shots for 13 points to go with his eight assists.
Three keys to victory
Continue defensive tweaks
The Pelicans defense was terrible last night against Denver. Just awful. Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay is going to be an excellent guard one day, but seeing him simply slice through that New Orleans defense last night was rough. Danilo Gallinari gave the Pelicans defense work, too. I don't know how the Pelicans can stop Oklahoma City on the defensive end if Davis and Holiday are out, so a tweak to the defensive scheme is in order.
More Alexis Ajinca
I feel stuck in this matrix where Ajinca seems like a daily topic. He played an understandable four minutes against Denver and racked up three fouls. Still, I think Gentry has to find more ways to play him. Even if it means slowing up the offense a bit, with all the injuries and players missing time, I think Ajinca can give New Orleans something both ends. Against OKC, I think the Kanter minutes is when you send Alexis out there and look for him in the post.
A group effort
In that Toronto game, as Anthony Davis sat, Eric Gordon was the only guy who provided offense. Against Oklahoma City, that can't happen. Ryan Anderson will have some moments, Eric Gordon will put the ball in the basket, but it needs to be a team effort. Someone will have to step up and fill the gaps, whether that's Ajinca with 12-15 points, a handful of Luke Babbitt threes, Jim- sike, Toney Douglas hitting a couple threes. It has to be a group effort.