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If the Pelicans are who they probably think they are, they should defeat the Thunder

New Orleans can greatly increase their odds of victory by containing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

After the Clippers fell to the the Mavericks by 51 points last Sunday, they immediately rebounded in their following two games, beating both the Timberwolves and Trail Blazers by 23 points.

A couple of days ago, the reigning Eastern Conference champs were destroyed by the Bucks, 144-97; however, the Heat impressively bounced back last night to knock off Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team by 11 points.

Not as well known but relevant to this train of thought, the Warriors began this season getting dropkicked by the Nets and Bucks by a combined 65 points, but now Stephen Curry is riding a two-game winning streak.

So as far as the Pelicans’ ugly 111-86 loss to the Suns on Tuesday...who cares?

There’s a fair amount of evidence supporting the notion that teams are more than capable of quickly bouncing back from some serious lopsided losses, but New Orleans appears to have another thing in their favor: tonight’s opponent is the Thunder, a team that was dismantled and most of their best parts shipped elsewhere during the offseason.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Don’t get me wrong, OKC has shown magnificent effort through three games under new head coach Mark Daigneault. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is putting up a fantastic line of 23.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 threes per game, and who wouldn’t want Luguentz Dort on their favorite team?

The Thunder came within a bucket of sitting with a 2-1 record if not for a 110-109 loss to the Jazz, but the facts say Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams are gone. The new starting lineup consisting of Shai, George Hill, Dort, Darius Bazley and Al Horford isn’t exactly screaming playoff contender.

While it’s true that during the first several weeks or so of every new season all teams are more inspired to perform well as a collective whole, the higher talent level of New Orleans should rise to the top. The Pelicans boast two legitimate All-Star candidates in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, plus at least on paper, they have a stronger supporting case in the regular rotation — yes, I’m accounting for Nicolo Melli and Jaxson Hayes — than the Thunder do around Shai and Dort.

The questions on minds right now though, can New Orleans bring the effort and defensive prowess largely witnessed in the first three games to OKC, and perhaps, show greater efficiency shooting the basketball away from the rim?

When writing this preview, I had just finished watching the Hornets beat the Mavericks by 19 points. Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball looked like locks for the 2022 All Star Game. Seemingly anything can happen currently any given night in the NBA. Why can’t JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe, who are much better players than they’ve shown to date, break out of their offensive slumps?

The Thunder haven’t shown a particularly effective on either offense or defense. They don’t push the ball in transition, haven’t been knocking the three-ball at a good rate nor getting enough to the free throw line.

They’re beatable, sorry Kenrich Williams.

If New Orleans handles its business, they should find themselves back over .500.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (2-2) at OKC Thunder (1-2)

When: December 31, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: FSNO

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.