The Thunder (41-16) got back on track Wednesday night with a 116-103 win over the reeling Dallas Mavericks. The win snaps a brief two-game skid in which the Thunder dropped home games to Indiana and Cleveland.
Next up is a Thursday tilt against the Pelicans. Sure doesn’t sound all that appealing, does it? Well, New Orleans (22-34) might not be very good, but Anthony Davis is. Plus, the game’s on TNT so you can listen to Charles Barkley. So admit it, you’re gonna watch.
When you do watch, here are a few things to keep in mind. If Oklahoma City does these things, it’ll mean win No. 42.
Avoid the trap
Call it a trap game, call it a potential letdown, or call it both. It would be very easy for Oklahoma City to look ahead to Saturday’s showdown with the Warriors, just as it would be easy to not bring the necessary energy to the second game of a road back-to-back against a lackluster opponent in the middle of the dog days.
The Thunder still sits comfortably in the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference Playoffs and would need a miracle to move up. Winning games like these, however, can eliminate the possibility of slipping to fourth and having to face Golden State in the second round. OKC enters Thursday with a four-game lead on the Clippers – don’t blow it.
Contain The Brow
Anthony Davis might just be the best big man in the NBA. He has torched the Thunder on many occasions, but not so much back on Feb. 11 when Oklahoma City kept the big bird caged in a 121-95 win. Davis scored 23 points on 14 shots, which is high in quality but not in quantity. Holding Davis to 14 shot attempts meant doing two things well: making Davis give it up and denying him the ball in the first place. What you don’t want to see is Davis getting 34 shot attempts, like he did against the Pistons on Sunday when he scored 59 points.
The other thing OKC did well in that game was to hold Davis to just three rebounds in 31 minutes. That was a season-low (counting games where Davis played 10 or more minutes) for the All-Pro.
If the Thunder keep Davis from taking flight, they can keep the Pelicans grounded.
Stick to Mr. Anderson
The Pelicans have really struggled to shoot it, especially with Eric Gordon sidelined with a fractured finger. Ryan Anderson is the one guy who can really kill you from deep if you let him, and the Thunder mustn’t. The Thunder did a nice job of limiting Anderson’s attempts in the previous meeting, holding the sharpshooter to just two shots and no makes.
Tip time from the Big Easy is set for 7 p.m.