The Pelicans and Thunder have had some intense battles throughout the season. New Orleans took the season series against its Play-In opponent, but all three of its wins came by less than five points.
Watch as Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum attempt to lead the Pelicans back into the NBA Playoffs for a second year in a row through the Play-In, while Oklahoma City continues its quest to shock everyone by earning an unexpected playoff spot.
Will Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams — all under 24 years old – leave their mark on their first postseason experience? Or can the Pelicans make another run with two Play-In victories to make another top-seed sweat?
New Orleans currently sits at 42-40 on the season, having committed 20.5 fouls per game and making 79.3% from the free-throw line. They assist teammates 25.9 times per game (11th in basketball), while giving up possession 14.6 times per contest. All told, New Orleans has scored 9,378 points this year (114.4 per game), grabbed 43.7 rebounds per contest, and hit 48.0% from the floor as an offensive unit – ranking them 11th nationally in basketball.
The Pelicans’ defense ranks 9th in the NBA in points per game surrendered with 112.5. They force 15.0 turnovers per game and allow teams to shoot 47.2% from the field (12th). New Orleans gives up 33.9% on 3-pointers (1,002 of 2,953), and opponents make 77.9% of their foul shots. On offense, New Orleans allows 24.9 assists and 41.8 total rebounds per game – 8th and 5th respectively in basketball.
Oklahoma City enters this game with a record of 40-42 for the year, surrendering possession 13.0 times per game and committing 21.0 personal fouls per contest. As a unit, they’ve pulled down 43.6 boards per contest and accounted for 2,002 assists this campaign – ranking 21st in passing percentage. On their shot attempts from beyond the perimeter (995 of 2797), OKC is hitting 35.6% and 80.9% from free throws respectively, averaging 117.5 points per contest (5th in NBA) while shooting 46.5% from beyond the arc.
On defense, the Thunder are forcing 16.8 turnovers per game and drawing 20.4 personal fouls. They concede 35.8% on 3-pointers and rank 19th in PPG allowed (116.4). As a team, they allow an FG percentage of 47.4% (3,437 of 7,252) and 46.6 boards per contest as a basketball team; additionally, they rank 20th in assists allowed with 2,126 allowed this season.
The Pelicans won three out of four games that these teams played this season. All three Pelican games were close tight ball games.
Even though the Pelicans won the season series and have experience of playing in the Play-In Tournament, I believe this young, tenacious Thunder squad will bring more energy and focus to a win-or-go-home game.
Oklahoma City faces no pressure. Everyone expected them to participate in Victor Wembanyama’s tankathon and no one predicted they’d challenge for a playoff spot. On the other hand, New Orleans was seen as one of the best teams in the West (albeit with an injury-plagued Williamson).
Playing with house money can be risky, and I believe Gilgeous-Alexander, the best player on the floor, will be the difference maker in keeping the Thunder’s season alive.
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