Play-In Preview: OKC at New Orleans

Play-In Preview: OKC at New Orleans

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Line: New Orleans -5.5

Total: 226.5

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

When: Wednesday, 4/12 at 9:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

A pair of young rosters will try to extend their season by at least one more game when the No. 9 seed New Orleans Pelicans host the No. 10 Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Wednesday night.

The winner of this game will face the loser of the Timberwolves and Lakers for the eighth seed in the conference. New Orleans won a pair of play-in tournament games last season before losing to top-seeded Phoenix, while Oklahoma City missed the postseason and was one of the worst teams in the NBA.

The Thunder suffered a big blow to their playoff chances when they lost lottery pick Chet Holmgren to a season-ending foot injury in the preseason, but they have given themselves a chance to make the playoffs. New Orleans won nine out of 12 games down the stretch, despite playing without Zion Williamson.

Oddsmakers opened New Orleans as a 5.5-point home favorite, which is where the line remained on Tuesday afternoon. The total opened at 231.5 before plummeting to 228 by Tuesday afternoon. It had moved down further to 226.5 by this morning.

The Pelicans have gone ‘under’ in 10 of their last 13 games, while Oklahoma City has gone ‘under’ in six of its last nine games.

The Thunder finished with a profitable 47-34-1 record against the spread, despite covering just twice in its final 10 games. New Orleans went 39-42-1 ATS, but it covered at an 8-3-1 clip in its last 12 contest. The Pelicans are 4-10 ATS in the last 14 head-to-head meetings between these teams.

Oklahoma City rested Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort in Sunday’s 115-100 win over Memphis, as it was already locked into the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference. Gilgeous-Alexander leads the Thunder with 31.4 points, 5.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, scoring 39 points in consecutive games on March 31 and April 2.

The Thunder’s fast-paced offense ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 117.5 points per game. Giddey is adding 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists, while Williams is chipping in 14.1 points and 4.5 rebounds during his rookie season. They are facing a New Orleans defense that ranks ninth in the league in points allowed per game (112.5).

“I’m really excited to see how we play and see what our best punch looks like in an environment like this” Oklahoma City head coach Mark Daigneault said. “But like I said, win, lose or draw, this is not an endpoint for us. It’s just a marker as we continue to build up the team.”

The Pelicans come into the play-in tournament with momentum following their strong conclusion to the regular season. They have been without Williamson for all but 29 games this season, and he is going to remain sidelined on Wednesday. He could return later in the postseason if the team advances to the first round.

They have been able to survive Williamson’s injury due to Brandon Ingram’s high-level play since the All-Star break, as he is averaging 24.7 points per game. He is complemented by guard CJ McCollum, who is adding 20.9 points and 5.7 assists. They rank No. 15 in the NBA in scoring (114.4) and are facing a Thunder defense that is No. 19 (116.4).

Aside from Williamson, the Pelicans are also going to be without guard Jose Alvarado, who is averaging 9.0 points, 3.0 assists and 2.3 rebounds. He has been cleared to resume on-court activities (leg), but he will not return to game action for at least one more week.

The pick: Oklahoma City +5.5

Oklahoma City has been consistently covering the spread this season due to its fast pace and high-scoring offense. The Thunder excel as underdogs, with teams struggling to beat them by a large margin due to those factors. Their profitability dipped down the stretch, but they are healthier than New Orleans coming into this matchup and have covered in six straight road games against the Pelicans. New Orleans is without its best franchise player along with a key reserve, which will make it difficult to win by three possessions against a pesky underdog.

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