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Pelicans vs. Thunder Prediction: Will OKC’s Inexperience Cost Them?

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Published April 24, 2024
12 min read

The New Orleans Pelicans trail the Oklahoma City Thunder 1-0 in the Western Conference playoffs heading into Game Two in OKC on Wednesday evening.

The Pels gave the favorites all they could handle during the opening gambit and had a look to win the game at the horn. C.J. McCollum’s shot was ultimately off the mark as the team’s impressive defensive effort came to be for nothing, though it did provide a glimpse of the problems they can cause in this series.

Thunder won the West with a record of 57-25 and went 33-8 at home. Despite being one of the most consistent teams in the league, they struggled with some of the personnel and looks that New Orleans threw at them, yet they still won while clearly playing below their lofty standard.

Here, we will go over the betting odds and share our favorite pick for Game Two of the Pelicans vs. Thunder series.

Pelicans vs Thunder Prediction

Pelicans vs. Thunder Betting Odds for Wednesday, April 24

The Pelicans are 46-38-1 (54.8 percent) against the spread and are the best team at covering in their current context, having gone 15-5-1 (75 percent) ATS as a road underdog. They are 2-2 ATS against the Thunder in the regular and postseason and covered in four of their last six.

The Thunder are 46-36-1 (56.1 percent) ATS and 23-13 (63.9 percent) ATS as a home favorite. They failed to cover in Game One but held up their end in four straight games before that.

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TeamsSpreadMoneylineTotal
New Orleans Pelicans+7.5 (-110)+260Over 210.5 (-110)
Oklahoma City Thunder-7.5 (-110)-350Under 210.5 (-110)

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Pelicans vs. Thunder Prediction

New Orleans Pelicans Preview

Don’t let the Pelicans being the eighth seed hide the truth: they are one of the most balanced teams in basketball and have an incredibly high floor.

This is a team that does basically everything well. Three-point shooting and defense, rebounding, offensive and defensive efficiency, assist-to-turnover ratio, practically every metric paints the picture that New Orleans is quietly one of the best teams in the league.

The major problem for the Pels is that they can’t convert in big moments. Despite ranking eighth in net rating (+4.6), they’re only 22nd in the same category during the fourth quarter (-1.7).

The trio of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and C.J. McCollum often struggle to generate optimal looks late in games. They also lack a clear hierarchy and seem to be unsure when they’re supposed to be the player to take the end-of-game shot. 

Without the injured Williamson, that picture is a little more clear—but that isn’t necessarily a positive.

On shot attempts taken in the final minute of games within five points, Ingram is shooting just 21.4 percent from the field. McCollum is much better at 50 percent but doesn’t take a ton of shots in this situation and just missed a would-be game-winner to start the series.

The Pels are going to have to produce another solid defensive effort to have a chance to win. They won the rebounding battle 52-44 and held OKC to 43.5 percent shooting (31.3 percent from three), both of which are good enough to carry them over the finish line if they can knock down shots. 

Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

The Thunder are very similar to the Pelicans in that they are incredibly balanced. They’re also well ahead of their years as the second-youngest team in the league and by far the youngest team in the playoffs.

OKC had the second-best net rating (+7.3) and was in the top four in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They also led the league in three-point shooting (38.9 percent), though the Pelicans allowed the second-worst three-point percentage.

MVP Candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s first playoff game as unquestionably “the guy” had its ups and downs. He committed several head-scratching turnovers and looked uncomfortable finding his spots at different points of the game, yet he still finished with 28 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 45.8 percent shooting.

OKC’s tenacity is going to win it multiple playoff games by itself. Their energy and intensity are unrelenting, which is a major reason why they led the league in points off turnovers per game.

The Thunder bench also made timely contributions in Game One, whether that be Jaylin Williams knocking down a couple of threes, Aaron Wigging making a few nice drives, or Cason Wallace providing excellent defense on McCollum at the end of the fourth quarter.

The Western Conference regular-season champs were excellent at home all year and posted a net rating of +12.8 in their building, the second-best in basketball. At the same time, the Pelicans had the second-best road net rating (+5.4) and will be tough for them to knock off.

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Pelicans vs. Thunder Betting Pick

This is a great series that should be played within tight margins all the way through.

It’s difficult to see a path for the Pelicans to win the series without Williamson, though he recently hinted that he could be back on the court soon. The team will have to bank on its defense and also generate better fourth-quarter offense to win in his absence.

We believe the Thunder should win, but we wouldn’t rule out a loss as an impossibility, and also believe the Pelicans will keep Game Two close. Thereby, the Pelicans' spread is our best bet for Wednesday.

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How to Watch Pelicans vs. Thunder

  • When: Wednesday, April 24 at 8:30/9:30 p.m. CT/ET

  • Where: Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, OK

  • TV: TNT

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AUTHOR

Grant Mitchell

538 Articles

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.

In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.

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