Role Players Stepping In For Thunder, Pelicans

Anthony Davis Injury 1/23/19 Getty Images

Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans sits on the bench with an injury in his finger during the game against the Detroit Pistons at Smoothie King Center on January 23, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have relied heavily on stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George for their success so far this season.

But heading into Thursday's home game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Thunder are riding a three-game winning streak and second-year guard Terrance Ferguson is a big reason why.

On the other side, the Pelicans are still feeling things out without star center Anthony Davis, who will miss his third consecutive game with a fractured finger on his left hand. Davis' agent told on Wednesday that Davis could return as early as next week.

Ferguson, like most of the Thunder, struggled from 3-point range early in the season. In the team's first 39 games, he was shooting less than 30 percent from behind the arc.

Over the last eight games, though, Ferguson is shooting better than 55 percent from behind the 3-point line, averaging 3.4 made 3s per game.

Ferguson, who was elevated into the starting lineup this season largely because Andre Roberson remains out as he rehabs from a serious knee injury, has elevated his status on the other end of the floor, as well.

"I've always felt like he's a much better shooter than what he had shown earlier in the year," Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters recently. "But I do think he's gotten considerably better and better for us defensively ... and we need him to maintain that level because that's one area that he has control over."

The teams have split their first two meetings of the season, the home team winning a close contest each time.

New Orleans is coming off its fourth loss in its last six games, falling 98-94 at home against Detroit on Wednesday night.

Pistons Hold Off Pelicans 98-94 - Thumbnail Image

Pistons Hold Off Pelicans 98-94

It was the Pelicans' first loss in six games when giving up fewer than 100 points. New Orleans failed to reach the 100-point mark for just the third time this season.

Jahlil Okafor, who took over Davis' spot in the starting lineup, did have a career-high six blocks in the loss.

In addition to Davis, the Pelicans could also be without power forward Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic left Wednesday's game in the fourth quarter with a right calf strain.

But it's Davis' injury that remains the most concerning for New Orleans. Wednesday's news was positive, however, as it was initially feared Davis could be out for as long as four weeks.

"It depends on AD and when he can get back out and make basketball plays that he feels comfortable with," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "It's just a timetable. Every day we'll have to check it and see where he is with it."

Oklahoma City could get minutes from Alex Abrines for the first time since Dec. 23. Abrines has missed the last 15 games, first with an illness and then for personal reasons. Abrines has suited up for the last two games but has yet to enter the game, with Donovan saying he was going to wait until the team had practice time at home to start working Abrines back into the rotation.

--Field Level Media/Copyright © 2019 TTWN Media Networks LLC

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