What a wild, strange ride it’s been... since last Friday!
Terrence Jones went to his isolation game against, of all people, LeBron James, and the Pelicans beat the Cavs’ big 3 Monday night 124-122. This, just a few days after a blowout loss in Brooklyn. Fans should never take too much from one NBA game — I should have known I would regret this late-nite tweet; of course it was an overreaction! Oops.
Now, New Orleans has to face off against another muscled-up blur: Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Nola faces OKC Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center, 7 p.m. See it on Fox Sports New Orleans and hear it on WRNO 99.5 FM.
The Thunder come to town after a dramatic 97-95 win against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City Monday night, their 2nd win in their last 5, all coming on the road. Westbrook notched his 22nd triple-double and hit the game-winner with 1.4 seconds left. #HeGood
Also of note, Steven Adams returned to the floor after missing 2 games due to the NBA’s concussion protocol following a blow to his head on the floor in Sacramento last week.
Fortunately for the Pelicans, Anthony Davis may also return after missing Monday night’s contest with a right quad contusion.
Davis: I am expecting to play tomorrow.— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) January 24, 2017
You probably already know: Westbrook isn’t starting the All-Star game, but he’ll be in Nola for the festivities in February. He’s averaging 30, 10, and 10 and with a ridiculous usage percentage of 41.4, which is on pace to set an all-time NBA record. But Russ only plays 34.7 minutes per game - so what happens when he’s off the floor?
Kan He or Kant He
If you follow him on Twitter, you’re all about Enes.
And if you’re Terrence Jones, Dante Cunningham or Solomon Hill, you might want to become very familiar. The last few weeks have been good times for the Turkish national. Kanter can be found regularly on the left block with his back to the basket, taking his time before dribbling and pounding his way towards the hoop — it’s as close as it gets to vintage Charles Barkley (in terms of style, not competency).
Kanter is a willing passer, but his skill as a distributor is very so-so. Watch for telegraphed cross-court passes; he wants to get to a right-handed effort close to the hoop.
Soft hands and excellent foot work allow Kanter to grab offensive rebounds and loose balls, and there aren’t many more trustworthy finishers under the basket from weird angles. Watching him display those skills makes you wonder how Asik ever made the league in the first place; you’re just like, oh yeah, that’s what that’s supposed to look like.
But there’s also his defense, which has been whispered about, then yelled about. Finally, a bomb went off over at WelcomeToLoudCity. Whoa. This article was NOT tongue-in-cheek, just a complete ripping of the potential 6th man of the year. Eventually, due to some angry Facebook comments regarding this story, the article’s author and website’s top dog had to step down. Sheesh.
CamPayne’ing for Better Oladipo?
When Russ leaves, you’ll find Cameron Payne. Just in his second year, the results have been mixed, although that’s in part due to a lack of exposure: he played 57 games last year and has only been in 8 games this season. The youngster has played well enough to earn legit minutes the last two years, but because of two foot injuries (including the dreaded “Jones Fracture” that plagued Kevin Durant two years ago), he missed 37 games to start the year. He’s probably still shaking off rust, so let’s keep that rolling, Pels.
Victor Oladipo, meanwhile, is playing off the ball, standing around and shooting more 3s (career-high percentage, though, including 51.6 from the corners) than he did in Orlando — obviously, sharing the court with Westbrook has lessened his playmaking impact. According to nbawowy.com, Oladipo is still struggling to get himself going when Westbrook sits: his shooting percentages are 45.2 eFG%, 46.7 TrueShooting% and 38.5 FG%. In addition, he’s got 28 assists and 22 turnovers without #0 next to him.
(Quickly, more on Kanter. When Oladipo is on and Russ is off, Kanter is shooting 62.5 eFG%, 67.2 TrueShooting%, and 60.2 FG%.)
A lot to watch on Wednesday, but expect the unexpected; and remember, it’s just one game!