OKC at NOP Game Preview – Four Quarters of Intensity

NEW ORLEANS – For all four quarters, the Thunder wants its opponent to feel pressure, be uncomfortable and out of their element.

By playing Thunder basketball to its fullest capability on every possession for 48 minutes, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club hopes to accomplish that goal tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans. Over the past few weeks, the Thunder’s defensive execution has been quite consistent, but team leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook believe that the team can be even steadier on both ends of the floor.

“We just have to put together a full game,” Durant said. “That starts out on both ends of the floor, with small intangible things like running to the corner, cutting hard and deflections. Things like that will help us.”

When it faces the Pelicans tonight, the Thunder will be supremely focused on getting back in transition defense. New Orleans creates the third most field goal attempts out of any team in the league, playing at an extremely high pace without turning the ball over. In fact, the Pelicans score the second most fast break points per game yet only allow the second fewest opposing points off turnovers. With a bevy of guards who can handle the ball and attack the paint, the Pelicans will test the Thunder’s perimeter defense.

“They have those three guards that open it up for them,” Durant said. “Tyreke (Evans), Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday are all All-Star caliber players that make it easier on everybody else. Then they have Brian Roberts who I think is one of the best backups in the league.”

Setting the tone early in the first quarter will be key tonight, as the Thunder wants to compete in getting out in transition for itself without allowing New Orleans to push the tempo. By running good offense, the Thunder can make the Pelicans take the ball out of the basket and then play against the Thunder’s set defense. Instead of allowing New Orleans to get into the open floor with steals, blocks or long rebounds, the Thunder wants to be able to get back and force New Orleans to play in the half court.

“We have to be locked in on every possession and we have to come out and jump on this team early,” Durant explained.

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 4-0 against the Pelicans last season, and overall is 12-6 against New Orleans.

- The Thunder is 10-1 this season in games with its full starting lineup intact.

- The Thunder is 2-1 this season in games after a loss.

Broadcast Info:

7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma, Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network