Bricktown Beat

Thunder vs. Pelicans Game Preview: What to Expect In Steven Adams’ Return Game

Oklahoma City Thunder (1-2) @ New Orleans Pelicans (2-2)

Tip Off: 7pm CST

How To Watch: FSOK

Overview

The Thunder enter this game coming fresh off a 107-118 loss to the Orlando Magic. For the New Orleans Pelicans, they too are coming off a loss of their own, being taken down by the Phoenix Suns 86-111 in their last contest.

The biggest storyline coming into the night is the return of Steven Adams. Adams, the now starting center of the Pelicans, was one of the fan favorites in his seven-year tenure with the Thunder. And although with COVID restrictions he will not be given the ovation he deserves, fans will still be proud to see Adams back at the ‘Peake. When asked about Adams’ return on Wednesday he told reporters, “It should be fine mate, just another basketball game really.” Classic Steven.

Game Notes:

The Thunder will have two players out for Thursday’s contest:

Ty Jerome (Left Ankle Sprain)

Trevor Ariza (Personal)

The Pelicans have PF Wenyen Gabriel out for tonight’s game.

  • The Pelicans have not cracked 100 points in 3 of their 4 games
  • They rank last in points (98.8) and 3pt% (29.6%)

Starting Lineups:

OKC NOP

PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Lonzo Ball

SG George Hill Eric Bledsoe

SF Lu Dort Brandon Ingram

PF Darius Bazley Zion Williamson

C Al Horford Steven Adams

Keys To The Game:

Prevent the Pelicans From 3

As noted, the Pelicans are dead last from behind the arch. A major issue for the Pels is that the tandem of Adams-Williamson have been clogging up the paint all game. If the Pelicans can get the touch from deep the inside of the court will open up and generating offense will be a lot easier. Specifically, if Zion can shoot. With Zion and Adams not being capable shooters from 3, the Thunder can have two players inside all game, and still have one in on P&R’s. If Williamson gets hot, the clogging of the lane is resolved and there scoring issues will be no more.

Protect the Paint

In Tuesday’s brawl vs. Orlando, the Thunder gave up 72 points in the paint. It should be noted that Al Horford was out from the game, but scoring inside still could remain an issue. Zion is one of the most athletic and physical forwards in the league and he may have some success driving on Bazley. With Adams, he has been one of, if not, the strongest player in the league. Adams may find be able to brute force his way to open shots under the basket on Horford, but it all depends on his aggression in the game.

Limit Turnovers

The Thunder enter this game 24th in turnovers, averaging 16 a game through three. Turnovers have been costly factors in two of their three games. They coughed up 5 turnovers in the last two minutes of their opener vs. Charlotte, blowing a 13 point lead. And in their second game vs. Utah their double-digit lead was evaporated after a series of defensive lapses and costly decision making with the ball, ultimately losing that game.

Who To Watch

For the Thunder, expect a lot of possessions with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the pick and roll. SGA went for an efficient 8-10 shooting in his last game, and was converting while double teamed in some cases. With the floor opened up and a less mobile big in Adams for the Pels, SGA may find a multitude of open looks.

Be on the lookout for second year player Isaiah Roby as well. Roby shined in his season debut on Tuesday, putting in 19 points (9-12) with 7 boards. The role with him is up in the air with Horford returning, but if Daigneault gives Roby a look in this game, watch out.

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