NBA Play-In Betting Preview | Thunder vs. Pelicans Odds, Pick, Prediction

NBA Play-In Betting Preview | Thunder vs. Pelicans Odds, Pick, Prediction article feature image

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Atlanta Hawks.

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder face the New Orleans Pelicans with their season on the line in Wednesday's Play-In game.
  • Our expert expects this to be a close game and sees value on an against the spread bet.
  • Chris Baker breaks down the matchup and shares his betting prediction for Thunder vs Pelicans below.

Thunder vs. Pelicans Odds

Thunder Odds+5.5
Pelicans Odds-5.5
Over/Under226.5 (-110/-110)
Time9:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in New Orleans facing the Pelicans and need a win to keep their impressive season alive. The winner of tonight's game will head to Minnesota for a second must-win game against the Timberwolves Friday and the loser goes home.

Can Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will this team to a road upset? Or will Brandon Ingram and continue to dominate and defend home-court? Here's my break down how these teams match up and a betting prediction for Thunder vs Pelicans.

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Oklahoma City Thunder

These teams faced off four times this year and the Thunder managed to go just 1-3 in those games. OKC won their most recent matchup against the Pelicans back on March 11, but it’s important to note that the Pelicans played Jonas Valanciunas and Herbert Jones just 16 minutes in that one. Brandon Ingram was also absent in that game, and he has obviously been massively impactful for this Pelicans team over the past month.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Thunder must be able to limit the Pelicans' second chance opportunities. The Thunder have spent the vast majority of the year playing without a true center and finishing possessions has been an issue all season as they rank 28th in the NBA in defensive rebound rate. This will be a major focus tonight, especially against a Pelicans offense that ranks 10th in offensive rebound rate (27.7%) on the year.

Offensively, I like this matchup for the Thunder as the Pelicans are fairly devoid of talented guard defenders. Herbert Jones is obviously an extremely special defender but outside of him there aren’t a lot of guys on this current Pelicans roster that scare you defensively. This is also an extremely enticing matchup for Shai given how poor the Pelicans rim defense has been this season.

The Pelicans defense ranks ninth best in opponent rim rate, but they rank last in opponent accuracy (71.6%). Jonas Valanciunas just is a poor rim-protector and I believe Shai could be in for a big game if the Pelicans can’t limit dribble penetration. Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best foul-drawers in the NBA and Herbert Jones will need to be extremely careful to avoid foul trouble. Jones ranks in the 20th percentile of foul rate, according to Cleaning the Glass so he isn’t necessarily the best at defending without fouling.

Finally, I expect the Thunder to generate a good amount of 3s as the Pelicans have made it a priority to defend the paint over this past month. Across their last 15 games, the Pelicans rank 24th in 3-point attempt rate allowed, but opponents are shooting just 33.3% on these looks. The Pelicans defense has been undeniably lucky as they rank second in defensive effective field goal percentage over that same stretch.

The Timberwolves were able to generate a 39.6% 3-point attempt rate by playing small so I expect the Thunder to have similar rates as they will likely be small the entire game. I would anticipate guys like Luguentz Dort, Jaylin Williams, and Josh Giddey getting very quality looks from three here. Overall, I like this matchup for the Thunder offense and I expect their defense to look solid. If Dort can contain Ingram and they can collectively block-out Valanciunas I see the Thunder competing here.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans collapse against the Wolves was especially deflating when you factor in all of the adversity/drama the Timberwolves had to overcome in that game. The result of that chaos was Minnesota losing two starters and arguably their two best defenders on the team and they still managed to pull off an impressive comeback.

A lot of the Pelicans' struggles could be chalked up to shooting inefficiency — 14.3% on 3s with 46.1% Effective Field Goal Percentage. That is a dramatic outlier shooting performance but their shot-profile in that game was a factor as well. The Pelicans took 48% of their shots from the mid-range (97th percentile) and just 21% from beyond the arc (1st percentile). This has been a problem all season and it is very difficult to win games when you are at this significant of a math disadvantage.

The Thunder have a similar recipe to defensive success as the Timberwolves. The Wolves were able to run shooters off the line because they went small, with Towns at center surrounded by multiple guards and wings. The Thunder don’t even play a center, so I expect them to do a good job of forcing Pelicans into tougher mid-range shots. The key for the Thunder will be making sure the 2s that the Pelicans get are tough attempts. They must prioritize taking away the rim and rotating effectively to also take away the 3-point line. If the Thunder can maximize their math advantage they have a legitimate chance to pull off this upset.

Focusing on matchups, expect to see Lue Dort picking up Brandon Ingram for close to 90 feet as he attempts to harass him and make his life difficult. It’s hard to project who will be on McCollum, but if I had to guess it would probably be SGA or Giddey. Jaylin Williams will be on Valanciunas and he will be at a significant strength disadvantage. Valanciunas is a legitimate 7-footer while Williams stands at just 6-foot-9. I would probably look to Valanciunas to clear his points, rebounds, and assists line as it is difficult for me to envision the Thunder being able to completely neutralize him.

Ultimately, it is not a perfect matchup for the Thunder defense but I like the Dort/Ingram matchup and I think they can win the math game on this end.

Thunder-Pelicans Pick

This should be a competitive game so I will grab the points with the Thunder. I think they have significant advantages at the point of attack with Shai and at the rim against Jonas. I also value Dort and Jaylen Williams defense and expect them to contain Brandon Ingram.

Ingram has been the workhorse for this team so any drop off in efficiency from him could spell the Pelicans doom. Take the Thunder at +5.5 and play this down to +5. Don’t hesitate to sprinkle on some of these +190 moneyline prices out there either.

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