OKLAHOMA CITY versus NEW ORLEANS
Wednesday, Feb. 4
Smoothie King Center
New Orleans, LA
8 p.m. (EST)
Thunder 24-24 (10-17 road) New Orleans 26-22 (17-6 home)
10th in Western Conference 9th the Western Conference
Kevin Durant – 25.1 POINTS Anthony Davis – 24.6
Russell Westbrook – 7.6 ASSISTS Jrue Holiday – 7.1
Serge Ibaka – 7.6 REBOUNDS Anthony Davis – 10.5
Serge Ibaka – 2.1 BLOCKS Anthony Davis – 2.8
Russell Westbrook – 2.3 STEALS Jrue Holiday/Anthony Davis – 1.6
THUNDER: Russell Westbrook’s triple-double led Oklahoma City to a much needed 104-97 victory over Orlando on Monday, Feb. 2. The Thunder played without superstar Kevin Durant, who missed the game with a sprained big toe. Westbrook provided the spark OKC needed, scoring 25 points to go along with his 11 rebounds and 14 assists, which gave the all-star guard his second triple-double of the season.
PELICANS: New Orleans enters the game against the Thunder on a high. The Pelicans are winners of two straight, including a 115-100 win over Atlanta, which snapped the Hawks 19-game winning streak. Emerging superstar Anthony Davis scored a team-high 29 points in the win.
OUTLOOK: If Oklahoma City wants to make a serious move towards qualifying for the Western Conference playoffs, then a win on the road against New Orleans is a perfect way to start. The Thunder is currently seated behind the Pelicans and Suns in the Western Conference standings. Before reaching the No. 8 seed, which is held by Phoenix, OKC will have to vault over New Orleans.
Getting past the Pelicans will be difficult as the team boasts one of the up-and-coming superstars in forward Anthony Davis. The 6-foot, 10-inch forward is New Orleans leading scorer on the season, and last time out against the Thunder the all-star scored a game-high 38 points, while grabbing 12 rebounds.
Oklahoma City and New Orleans have met twice previously this season, with the Pelicans coming away with victories in both meetings.
On Dec. 2, New Orleans defeated the Thunder 112-104 at the Smoothie King Center. Davis was the star for the Pelicans in the first game, recording a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Tyreke Evans scored a game-high 30 points during the victory, while Jrue Holiday contributed a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists.
In the first loss to New Orleans, Durant scored a team-high 27 points, but the all-star forward committed five turnovers. The turnover bug was a problem in the Thunder’s first loss to the Pelicans as OKC committed 17 turnovers for the game, including a team-high seven by Westbrook.
New Orleans and the Thunder met for a second time during on Dec. 21. This time the Thunder hosted the Pelicans at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Unfortunately for OKC, the results of the second game were the same as the first, as New Orleans came away with a 101-99 victory. The Thunder played without Durant in the second game while he recovered from a sprained ankle suffered against Golden State.
Davis again was brilliant in the Pelicans second win against OKC, recording a game-high 38 points while pulling down 12 boards. Holiday had his second double-double of the season against the Thunder, this time scoring 11 points while dishing out 15 helpers.
Westbrook tried to wear the superman cape against the Pelicans in the second meeting, scoring a team-high 29 points while dishing out eight assists. Unfortunately, the talented point guard also turned the ball over six times.
While the Thunder are two games back of the Pelicans in the standings, OKC could make up serious ground as the teams play against one another on back-to-back nights. Not only is the Western Conference foes close to even in the standings, but there is not much that separates the teams statistically either.
The Pelicans are currently the 16th highest scoring team in the NBA coming in at 100.5 points-per-game, while the Thunder are 19th, scoring an average of 99.2 points a night. Oklahoma City hopes to see an uptick in the scoring column once Durant plays on a consistent basis. The reigning MVP has played just 22 games during the 2014-15 season.
The Thunder could see an improvement on offense if the team shared the ball a little more as well. Led by a shoot-first point guard in Westbrook, the Thunder average 20.1 assists on a nightly basis, which is good for 28th overall in the NBA. New Orleans is only slightly better sharing the ball, ranking 16th in the league with 21.4 assists per night.
Despite Davis pulling down 10.5 rebounds-per-game and Omer Asik grabbing 10.1 a night, the Pelicans rank just 9th in rebounding, averaging 44.4 boards a night. Conversely the Thunder does not have a single player pulling down double-digit rebounds, but OKC leads the league in rebounding, grabbing 46.5 boards on average per night.
For the Thunder to put a serious charge into a Western Conference playoff run, a win against the Pelicans would be the perfect start.
NOTES: The Pelicans have won three straight games against the Thunder dating back to April 14, 2014. Although New Orleans does have the minor three-game win streak against OKC, the Thunder had won the seven previous meetings.