The Thunder came into the Smoothie King Center on Wednesday and beat the Pels 102-91 behind Russell Westbrook’s dominating 45-point effort and New Orleans cold shooting. The loss was even more deflating because the Thunder were without Kevin Durant and the Pelicans were up 11 midway through the third quarter, but they let that lead slip away before that frame had expired.
Now, in order for the Pelicans to win the tiebreaker with the Thunder without going to another tiebreaker, they must beat OKC in their place. The Pels have done this before, but Jrue Holiday was active to pester Westbrook.
Keys to Victory
Game Plan against Russ
Russell Westbrook abused the Pelicans. So much so, I think Hilary Swank is going to make a commercial for the Pels where she just cries and looks into the camera. Seriously, Monty and company need to try something different. For this game, I suggest trying to get the ball out of Russ’ hands early in the shot clock. Easier said than done, but maybe try and run some double teams at him and force Andre Roberson and Steven Adams to make shots or good decisions.
Make Shots, Take Better Shots
Fish has been beating the drum all season about the correlation between Pels losses and the amount of open shots they miss. Many games, such as the Pels game against the Thunder on Wednesday, would have had different outcomes had the Pels simply made their open shots. Pels went 19 of 50 on open shots Wednesday night….at home. Make shots and they win.
However, the Pels also settled for too many jumpers and bad ones at that. Monty made mention of this in his postgame press conference. Not that it wasn't hard to figure it out considering the team had all of 13 free throw attempts, and just a measly 4 after halftime!
Protect the Paint because Ibaka sure did
The Pels gave up 66 points in the paint on Wednesday. Sixty-six!!! That is way too many for any team to be successful. Monty may have to go with Asik a little more in this game so that he can improve the interior defense, but the Pelicans have to make sure they're rotating to box out the Thunder's bigs when either Asik or Davis have to help defend Westbrook in the paint.
Oleh was worried about Ibaka possibly having a significant impact on Wednesday. He did and it was more so on the defensive end. He was an animal accounting for 6 of the 10 Thunder blocked shots.
When: February 6, 2015 at 7pm CST
Link to OKC’s Blog: http://www.welcometoloudcity.com/