Pregame report: Pelicans at Thunder
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
News and updates from Chesapeake Energy Arena prior to Friday’s Western Conference game New Orleans and Oklahoma City:
• Pelicans Coach Monty Williams on his lineups during the final week of the season: “It will be matchup-based from here on out. I don’t know if there is a better (frontcourt) in the NBA (than Oklahoma City’s group), because Kevin Durant is maybe the most unique player I’ve ever coached against or seen since I’ve been in the NBA.”
• With matchups in mind, Williams will give Austin Rivers his first starting assignment of 2013-14. He will replace Brian Roberts in the backcourt; Roberts has been banged up lately and didn’t play the latter portion of Wednesday’s loss to Phoenix. In addition, Jeff Withey will be one of the starting forward, replacing Al-Farouq Aminu.
• What’s at stake for the Pelicans (32-46): New Orleans is trying to snap a six-game losing streak, while facing only elite competition over the final four games, including two contests apiece vs. Oklahoma City and Houston. The second game of a back-to-back is Saturday at Houston.
• What’s at stake for the Thunder (57-21): Oklahoma City appears destined for a No. 2 seed in the West, currently 3.5 games behind San Antonio, but 2.5 games ahead of the third-place Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder have the option of beginning to rest players or reduce minute workloads, with the postseason tipping off April 19.