The New Orleans Pelicans (7-13) visit the Chesapeake Energy Arena Sunday at 6 p.m. to play the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-8). The game will air on Fox Sports New Orleans and Fox Sports Oklahoma as well as on radio at WRNO 99.5 FM.
OKC has won four in a row coming off a 3-game losing streak. In fact, this season has been very streaky for the Durantless-Thunder. They’ve already had 2 4-game winning streaks and a 3- and 4-game losing streak. That’s, like, practically the whole season in winning or losing streaks.
Jrue Holiday expects to make his third start of the year and he’s been great in his first 8 games after missing the first 12 due to his wife’s pregnancy and brain tumor removal. He’s averaging 16 points and 6 assists and shooting nearly 44% from 3s. I’d like to see his turnover numbers come down a bit, but he’s been at 2 or 3 turnovers per game for his entire career, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
But really, you should sit back and enjoy the show: OKC point guard Russell Westbrook and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis are two of the must-see talents in the league.
What to watch:
I have to come out and admit it: I live in a Thunder household. I myself am a big fan -- but not as much as I root for New Orleans, I promise! So I know all about our enemy: thanks, Down To Dunk Podcast! On a recent podcast, one of the hosts mentioned the raw numbers of Russell Westbrook in clutch time, which is in the last 5 minutes of the game when the score differential is 5 points or less. In those times, Westbrook continues to be him but with an extra boost: he’s second in the league in FGM, and leads the league in defensive and total rebounds, turnovers and points. Basically his league-high usage percentage (40.3) only continues in those last few minutes, when it skyrockets to 60%(!). So, basically, Westbrook does everything all the time.
The front court
There’s a lot of guys who like to bang around in the post when either or both teams go big. OKC features some of the better, younger post players in the league: Steven Adams is a monster, Enes Kanter racks up numbers that make his per-36 stats among the best in the league (averaging 24 and 11, shooting 60% on 2-pt FGs), Domantas Sabonis has started most of the year as a rookie, showing some stretch-4 and playmaking abilities, Joffrey Lauvergne has been better than expected (shooting 42% from 3), and Jerami Grant has even given OKC something it lacked with his athleticism and shot blocking as a small-ball 4 or even 5. The Pelicans, of course, have a guy named Anthony Davis who could—and might—destroy each and every one of those Thunder players. As with most nights in the NBA, Anthony Davis has the advantage.
I have to again come out and admit it: I love Anthony Morrow. He’s an elite shooter, with a release so fast you’ll miss it if you blink. But he can also turn into a more general scorer with pump-fakes and floaters and mid-rangers. I know he lives in all our memories because of his performance in the summer league many moons ago:
Well, after being overlooked at the beginning of the year (and coach Billy Donovan trying out some Alex Abrines and Kyle Singler), Morrow has gotten some time, especially in the last 5 games. He went for 21 against Washington 3 games ago -- in that game, only half of his attempts were 3s. So if you want to guard the former Hornet, be careful, he might pump-fake you and get to 16 feet for a little something different.