The New Orleans Pelicans shocked the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night without Anthony Davis in the lineup.
On Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder (26-19) at the Smoothie King Center, the Pelicans (18-27) should have Davis back from a sore right thigh, but they will have to contend with the NBA's irresistible force, Russell Westbrook, who would like nothing better than to close out the Thunder's season-long, six-game road trip with a 3-3 record.
Davis, who sat out New Orleans' 124-122 victory over Cleveland on Monday, went through full practice on Tuesday and should be able to start against OKC, which has taken the first two games between the teams this season. "It's just soreness," Davis said. "The muscle has stayed tight the past few days and I tried to put pressure on it and kind of aggravated it, so I didn't feel good to go (against Cleveland). I'm expecting to play (Wednesday) unless something happens overnight or in shootaround. I feel good to play."
In Davis' absence against Cleveland, the Pelicans got heroic performances from forward Terrence Jones, who tied his career-best scoring night with 36 points, and guard Jrue Holiday with 33 points and 10 assists. In the four games Davis has missed because of injury, Jones is averaging 26.0 points on 60.9 percent shooting from the field and 9.3 rebounds.
Davis would love to see his former Kentucky teammate play more to that level when they are on the court together. "That's what I told him: 'We're going to need the same game from you tomorrow,'" Davis said. "When I'm not in, he knows he has to be more aggressive. When I'm playing, he probably thinks he doesn't have to be, but we want him to be. He's tough to guard, and we need him to play like that even when I'm playing."
The Thunder snapped a two-game road losing streak with a 97-95 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night. After winning two of three from the Pelicans last year, the Thunder defeated New Orleans 101-92 at home on Dec. 4 and 121-100 in New Orleans on Dec. 21.
In those two games, Westbrook has averaged 35.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 1.0 steal. Center Enes Kanter has averaged 15.5 points on 54.2 peercent shooting from the field to go with 11.5 rebounds.
Davis has led the Pelicans in the two games with 35.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 3.0 blocks.
In OKC's most recent victory, reserve Alex Abrines scored a career-high 18 points, hitting 5 of 11 3-pointers.
The Thunder are trying to keep their equilibrium during a tough January schedule in which they will play 12 of 15 games on the road. They are 5-6 so far this month.
With 38 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Westbrook posted the 59th career triple-double of his career against the Jazz, tying him with Larry Bird for fifth all time in the NBA. Westbrook's next benchmark is Wilt Chamberlain's 78; Oscar Robertson is the leader with 181.
"Russell is going to be a hall-of-fame player," OKC coach Billy Donovan said. "He's one of the best players in this league. The things he's done statistically, when you hear some of the names that are surrounding the things he's doing, it's a great credit to his work ethic and how much time he's invested in it.
"But I also know him, and he says this more often than anybody, he wants to win."
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