- Tip-off: 7 p.m. CT
- Television: Livestream on okcthunder.com, Thunder Mobile App, OKC Thunder Facebook and Periscope
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
On Tuesday night in Tulsa, the Thunder faced a lineup against the Houston Rockets that featured PJ Tucker, historically a small forward during his NBA career, playing at the center. The times they are a-changin’.
Tonight’s clash against the New Orleans Pelicans might as well be the exact opposite, a rare remaining homage to the traditional NBA lineup with a big bruising center and complementary power forward with size. Both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have the ability to finish with their backs to the basket, a facet of the game that NBA teams are running away from around the league.
Game Day: Paul George
But in the NBA it’s what makes you unique that makes you dangerous, and that’s why the Thunder’s foe in its preseason home opener at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight is going with the twin towers approach. For Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan, it’s a welcome challenge to try to get his players to transition from a team that place with pace and space, to one that does the opposite.
”The different styles of play is good for us. We dealt with some really small lineups with Houston and we’ll deal with some very, very big lineups with New Orleans,” Donovan said. “Schematically, both teams are a lot different which will be great just in terms of testing our defense and trying to continue to work on executing on offense.”
1-on-1: Dakari Johnson
The men tasked with guarding Cousins and Davis tonight will comprise of forwards Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Jerami Grant, rookie Dakari Johnson and starting center Steven Adams, who practice fully in practice on Thursday.
Russell Westbrook was also able to practice fully, but his status for the Pelicans is up in the air and will be based on how he feels after shootaround this morning. Whether or not he plays tonight, Westbrook is due back soon, and his teammates know that whenever he hits the floor, he’ll be ready to go 100 miles an hour as usual.
“Russell’s not a guy that I’m worried about and I don’t think anybody else should be worried about,” Anthony chuckled. “Even if he takes two months off and he comes back, physically, genetically, he’s a specimen out there on the court.”
Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines will both remain out tonight, meaning some of the Thunder’s younger players and other new additions will get more of an opportunity for playing time. Regardless of who is on the floor, however, this game is a chance to hone in on some of the teams’ plans for the season on defense and offense.
Watch: Game Preview
“Now that we have a game under our belt, we’re able to see some things defensively and offensively,” Anthony said. “For the most part it’s about feeling comfortable with one another out there on the court. Offensively, guys being aggressive and not trying to be overly passive and trying to make the right play all the time instead of just playing basketball and letting it flow.”
“It comes down to a comfort level out there on the court and guys doing what they do best and simplifying the game,” Anthony added. “If you have an extra pass you make it, if you have the shot you take it. Let the game dictate the decisions that you make and not try to dictate it before it even happens.”
It’ll be an exhilarating atmosphere in the arena tonight, even though this game doesn’t count in the standings. It’ll be the first chance for Anthony and George to walk through the tunnel at Chesapeake Energy Arena and feel what it’s like for those 18,203 loyal Oklahomans to cascade their support down to them on the floor.