Night two of the NBA Play-In Tournament is here, with the loser of tonight’s matchup heading home. The Thunder and Pelicans will battle it out tonight in the Western Conference game for a chance to play the Timberwolves, and we’ll preview the game before going over my best play for the game.
After the Dallas Mavericks blatantly gave up on the regular season, the OKC Thunder firmly secured their spot in the Play-In Tournament with a 40-42 overall record. The Thunder ended the regular season with an overall NET rating of (1), which was ranked 15th in the league.
The young team led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was in the middle of the pack for both offensive and defensive efficiency throughout the season. However, over the last 15 games of the regular season, in which OKC went 8-7, they struggled a bit on the offensive end and ranked 22nd in offensive rating in that span. The true concern for OKC heading into tonight is rebounding, as they ranked 25th in rebounding percentage this season, and their current leading rebounder is guard Josh Giddey.
When these two teams met most recently on March 11th, the Thunder were outrebounded for the game but did end up coming away with a 110-96 win. That loss was indicative of the Pelicans' offensive inconsistencies more than anything else. New Orleans may have had the 10th-best NET rating in the league during the regular season, but they were 20th in offensive rating.
Over the last 15 games, the Pelicans did show some improvement on the offensive end, ranking 13th in offensive rating, but like it was for most of the season, their defense is what carried them. In that same 15-game span, New Orleans was 2nd in defensive rating, and on the season, they ranked 6th.
Interior defense is one of the most significant matchup factors in tonight’s game. The Thunder got 47% of their scoring from the paint this season, and the Pelicans rank 12th in opponent points in the paint per game, so that area of the floor will be a big determining factor.
For my play in this one, I’ll be targeting a first-half bet in the form of the Pelicans (-3). New Orleans had the fourth-highest return on investment for 1H spread bets during the regular season with an ATS record of 45-35-2. The Thunder, on the other hand, had a negative ROI for 1H ATS bets with a record of 39-40-3.
The Pelicans had the 9th-best first-half NET rating in the league at (3.5), while the Thunder ranked 20th in that category with a (-.8) rating. If the rebounding struggles for OKC continue, then the Pelicans are likely looking at multiple second-chance looks in the 1H. OKC allowed the most second-chance points per game in the first half this season, with an average of 7.9 per game.
Defensively, the Pelicans allowed the 5th fewest made field goals per game in the first half while also ranking 8th in 1H opponent field goal percentage. Additionally, New Orleans allowed the lowest first-half opponent three-point percentage and was 5th in first-half assists allowed per game. Overall I think the Pelicans can find success on both ends of the floor right from tip-off.
New Orleans Pelicans 1H (-3)