Game: Oklahoma City Thunder @ New Orleans Pelicans
Time: 9:30 p.m.
Odds: Thunder +5.5, Pelicans -5.5
Last season, the New Orleans Pelicans proved they could compete without the frequently injured Zion Williamson. That’s fortunate because it looks like Williamson won’t be playing for the Pelicans tonight either. The Pelicans will play the host in tonight’s play-in game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
Williamson suffered a right hamstring injury on January 2. His healing process has taken more than three months. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick only participated in 29 games during the regular season. That marked the third time in his four NBA seasons that he did not play in at least 30 games. Williamson doesn’t think he can play at a level that can help New Orleans.
New Orleans (42-40) finished the regular season with nine victories in 12 games to take ninth place in the West despite the Williamson drama still simmering. Oklahoma City (40-42) came in at number ten. After the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-102 in overtime on Tuesday, the winner of Wednesday’s game will face Minnesota for a playoff spot on Friday.
In the play-in format last season, the Pelicans flourished without Williamson, defeating the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers to secure a playoff spot. Unexpectedly, New Orleans put up a valiant fight against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round, twice posting double-digit wins before dropping the series in six games.
The Pelicans will once more rely on CJ McCollum (20.9) and Brandon Ingram (24.7), the team’s leading scorers. New Orleans will need to play better than it did on Sunday, when it lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 113-108 in the final game of the regular season.
The Thunder are ahead of schedule with their extensive rebuilding project after finishing the regular season with back-to-back victories. Before making significant progress this season, Oklahoma City had a combined record of 46-108 over the previous two campaigns. This is thanks to a young group that is led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging a team-high 31.4 points per game.
The Thunder will play its biggest game in Mark Daigneault’s three seasons as head coach. Few people expected them to play after the regular season ended. The Thunder has an impressive group of young players also includes Jalen Williams, Lu Dort, and Josh Giddey. Despite No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren (foot) missing the entire season, Oklahoma City outperformed expectations.
Three of the four meetings between the teams this season went in the Pelicans’ favor, but Oklahoma City won the most recent one 110-96 on March 11 in New Orleans. The Thunder are 2-4 SU in their last six games against the Pelicans. OKC is, however, 10-4 ATS in the last 14 against New Orleans.
New Orleans is 9-3 SU and 8-3-1 ATS in its last 12 games. The Pelicans have won five of their last six games at home. At home against Oklahoma City, New Orleans has failed to cover the spread in the last six straight.
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