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Thunder vs. Pelicans: NBA Play-In Game Prediction

The New Orleans Pelicans find themselves in a familiar situation after finishing the season with a resume that is only strong enough for the NBA’s play-in tournament. If they win both games, they will be awarded the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. But first, they must get past the young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder. Without question, the Thunder is one of the league’s biggest surprises of the 2022-2023 campaign.

They closed out the season with a 40-42 record that allowed them to become a participant in the play-in tournament. During the regular season, New Orleans dominated the series by winning three out of the four matchups with OKC. However, the games between the two clubs were close contests for the most part.

New Orleans would win the three games against the Thunder by a margin of five points. For the Pelicans to win Wednesday’s battle against OKC, they must neutralize the significant playability of their opponent’s top contributor Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The former Kentucky Wildcat has exploded onto the scene by averaging 31.4 PPG. SGA’s high scoring average allowed him to finish fourth in the league when it came to scoring. When facing the Pelicans, SGA was unstoppable. Despite losing three out of four games to New Orleans, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 33.5 PPG and shot 33.3 percent behind the 3-point line.

If they can slow down what SGA does best, which is to attack the basket aggressively, the Pelicans should be able to pull away with a victory on Wednesday night. On offense, New Orleans must get the ball into the hands of their top playmaker Brandon Ingram. To close out the season, BI has been on a tear. In the season’s final month, Ingram averaged 27.4 points, 7.4 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per game. He also recorded his first-ever career triple-double and racked up 40 points twice.

Ingram only played one game against OKC due to dealing with injuries, but when he did suit up, he went off for 34 points. Outside of effectively utilizing Ingram, the team must be efficient in all game phases. New Orleans must get into a situation where they cannot defeat themselves and allow the Thunder to go on a deep run and capitalize. Complimentary players like Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III must play to their strengths and not differentiate from the game plan.

As for the Pelicans’ opponents, the Oklahoma City Thunder, their keys to victory are simple; they must get the ball into the hands of SGA and allow him to dominate the Pelicans. However, playing defense cannot be optional. OKC must force players such as Jones, Murphy, and CJ McCollum into not becoming a factor in Wednesday’s game. Outside of SGA, other players, such as Josh Giddy, must step in and make crucial shots. They cannot come out and hope they will face a Pelicans team known to have off nights when they should not. The Thunder must attack this game early and often if they want to move to the next phase of the play-in tournament.

Score Prediction

The Oklahoma City Thunder has had a great season. They have greatly exceeded expectations and will regain their status as a top team in the West again, but on Wednesday night, their season will end. The Pelicans have been in this situation before and know what it takes to advance to the next phase. Expect BI and SGA to have one of their best performances of the season, regardless of the outcome.

Pelicans 118, Thunder 110


Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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