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Thunder vs. Pelicans Prediction: The Battle for the Top Four in the West

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Published March 26, 2024
10 min read

The Oklahoma City Thunder (49-21) are looking to move back within a half-game of the first-place Denver Nuggets when they take on one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference, the New Orleans Pelicans (44-27), on Tuesday.

The Thunder were blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks in their last game but won seven of eight just before that as they continue to be one of the most consistent teams in basketball. They’re 21-14 on the road and 1-1 against the Pels thus far.

New Orleans is 18-6 over its last 24 games and 14-4 at home. Their stellar play as of late combined with the Los Angeles Clippers’ decline allowed them to sneak into fourth place via tiebreaker, which could prove to be crucial if they can secure home-court advantage at least in the first round.

Here, we will go over the betting odds and share our favorite pick for the Thunder vs. Pelicans matchup.

Thunder vs Pelicans Prediction

Thunder vs. Pelicans Betting Odds for Tuesday, March 26

The Thunder have the third-best record against the spread in the NBA at 40-29-1 (58 percent). Despite that, they’re 11-12 (47.8 percent) ATS as a road favorite and covered twice in their last 10 games.

The Pelicans are the fourth-best team ATS in basketball at 40-30-1 (57.1 percent) and are 5-3 (62.5 percent) ATS as a home underdog. They also covered in eight of their last 11 games and spit covers with OKC.

Oklahoma City Thunder-1.5 (-110)-125Over 223.5 (-110)
New Orleans Pelicans+1.5 (-110)+105Under 223.5 (-110)

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Thunder vs. Pelicans Prediction

Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

The Thunder are so far ahead of schedule that they aren’t thought of as a young team (despite being the second-youngest in the league). Instead, they’re bonafide contenders with an MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading their attack and with contributors all over the roster.

The Thunder rank fourth in point differential per 100 possessions (+7.3) since the All-Star break and are in the top seven in offensive and defensive efficiency during that time. They also rank third in three-point shooting (38.9 percent) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio as their drive-and-kick style allows them to generate tons of open looks and trips to the free-throw line.

OKC is also outstanding at creating offense with its defense. They averaged 22.6 points off turnovers per game since the All-Star Game, nearly four more than the next-closest team. 

The main (and only real) weakness of this team is on the boards. Although Chet Holmgren is up to 9.0 rebounds per game in March, the team ranks 28th in rebound rate and is undersized compared to its opponent nearly every night it takes the court.

Gilgeous-Alexander is still playing at a high level but has not been quiet at his best recently. He averaged 27.2 points and shot just 27.5 percent from three-point territory in March, while co-star Jalen Williams is also slightly below his season scoring average at 18.8 points per game in the month.

New Orleans Pelicans Preview

The Pelicans have gotten hot before, but those peaks were usually followed by valleys. The run the team is on now, however, appears as if it could be here to stay. 

New Orleans, since the All-Star break, is one spot ahead of OKC and third in net rating (+9.4). Their offense is just outside the top 10 in efficiency, but their defense ranks second and is only .1 points allowed per 100 possessions behind the Orlando Magic during that time.

As great of a team as the Thunder are, there’s an argument to be made that the Pelicans’ composition makes them a matchup nightmare. They aren’t amazing on the glass but have two big bodies in Jonas Valanciunas and Zion Williamson that can overpower Holmgren and company, along with long wings such as Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III that can also sneak in from the weak side.

As disruptive as the Thunder are on defense, the Pelicans rank fifth in points off turnovers per game since the season intermission. They also held opponents to 33.1 percent three-point shooting, the fifth-lowest mark in the league, whereas OKC ranks 23rd at 37.2 percent allowed. That could prove to be vital given how prolific the Thunder are from beyond the arc.

New Orleans shot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc over the past five weeks and change and has the top-end scoring output to keep pace with most teams nearly every night. 

Williamson is fresh off a 36-point night against the Detroit Pistons during which she got 13-14 from the field. He only scored four points the game before, however, and there’s lots of pressure on him in this matchup.

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Thunder vs. Pelicans Betting Pick

Brandon Ingram will miss the game with a bone contusion suffered in his left knee, which suggests the Pelicans may have been favored if he was available.

OKC is one of the best road teams in basketball, but even they haven’t been at the level the Pelicans have been recently. Both teams are also desperate to continue winning to improve their playoff position, which ensures they’ll both give maximum effort.

The Pelicans’ airtight defense on the perimeter combined with their size and brute strength on the inside gives them the tools to take down the Thunder. The result is far from a guarantee, but they’re hot and can prove a lot to themselves and the basketball world with a win.

How to Watch Thunder vs. Pelicans on 3/26/24

  • When: Tuesday, March 26, 7:00/8:00 p.m. CT/ET

  • Where: Smoothie King Center

  • TV: NBA League Pass

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Grant Mitchell

480 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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