Thunder Looking Forward to Loud City Love in Bounce Back Situation – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC vs. NOP

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

Broadcast Information

  • Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. CT
  • Television:Fox Sports Oklahoma
  • Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

There’s just something about Chesapeake Energy Arena that is soothing to the Thunder soul. After a shocking finish to a heart-stopping loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Thunder hopes that the Oklahoma City faithful will be just what’s required to snap a two-game skid.

The challenge tonight is the New Orleans Pelicans, who like the Thunder have experienced their own fair share of adversity this season. The day before the Thunder lost Andre Roberson for the season, Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his All-Star year in the Big Easy. When the Thunder returned from Denver for the back half of a brutal back-to-back in Detroit with the Roberson injury on its mind, Loud City stood and delivered in a win over Philadelphia. It’ll have to be the same atmosphere tonight, as the Thunder closes out a stretch of five games in seven nights.

“It’s Russ (Westbrook), it’s this arena, it’s the fans,” George noted. “Kind of everything collectively; it gets me to a level where I explode, but you know it’s just that energy as a group that we create and sometimes you can’t hold it in.”

Tonight’s clash with the Pelicans will mark the Thunder’s sixth consecutive game in a different time zone, concluding a span of three games in four nights in Washington, D.C.’s Eastern Time Zone, Denver’s Mountain Time Zone and Oklahoma City’s Central Time Zone. Eight hours’ worth of flight time in the past three days has likely added an extra layer of fatigue for this Thunder squad, but Head Coach Billy Donovan and his squad are shaking off any excuses. 52 games into this 2017-18 campaign, the Thunder is focused on what it can control to simply try to move to 31-22, instead of any external factors.

“I don’t think we can worry about that. Everybody in the NBA deals with these kind of scheduling situations,” Donovan rebutted. “This is a tough one for us. I’m not going to say it’s not. We have to be able to come back and be able to perform.”

“We can’t look at like that. We have to go home, defend our home court,” George echoed. “At this point it’s gaining. We had a good run with 8 in a row. We lost two, and now we have to get back on our feet. What we want to be going into the all-star break is a team going forward and getting better each game.”

The Pelicans will test the Thunder’s defense, which played well for really just one quarter in Thursday night’s loss to Denver. Some combination of Steven Adams, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will be charged with the assignment of dynamic forward Anthony Davis, but it’ll take a five-man effort to quell a monster performance from the Pelicans All-Star.

After putting together the NBA’s most productive and efficient offense in the month of January and ripping off 124 points on Thursday, the Thunder is focused on righting the ship defensively. There’s bound to be some stretching and growth necessary as the team deals with the loss of Roberson, so there’s no expectation of perfection on that end. What the Thunder does require, however, is an attitude of vigilance to play at a sustainable level, one that it has displayed over the past two months with much more frequency.

“We’re playing better, but we have a game (today) and we have to make sure we take care of business at home,” Westbrook added.

“Despite us going back home and playing a tough one tomorrow, it’s a ball game,” George said. “We gotta win that.”

Nick's Notebook

- On Thursday the NBA announced that George was selected to participate in three-point contest at All Star 2018 in Los Angeles. George has shot a career-best 42.7 percent from behind the three-point line so far this season, and has made 155 shots from behind the arc so far this season. He’ll be competing against Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Suns guard Devin Booker, Heat guard Wayne Ellington, Rockets guard Eric Gordon, Clippers forward Tobias Harris, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

- Another Thunder sharpshooter was noteworthy on Thursday as well. Alex Abrines, who has had a tough season due to injuries, inconsistency and a lack of rhythm, seemed to be back to himself in a 13-point performance against Denver. The Spaniard is shooting 37.8 percent from behind the arc this season, but some struggles on defense have limited his playing time. With some minutes opening up in the rotation, Abrines is hoping to capitalize now that he’s back to being healthy and in a better groove.

  • “It feels good. That’s what I want,” Abrines said. “I’ve been working for that all year long and now I have a chance. I just have to do my best. On offense, try to score when I get the ball and on defense be hard and help the teammates.”

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