The New Orleans Pelicans (2-1) encounter the Oklahoma City Thunder (3-1) this Wednesday (11/1/23). Get Pelicans vs. Thunder moneyline and spread odds, as well as predictions, starting lineups, injuries, and key matchup below.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction
New Orleans allowed the largest opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area last season and ranked 29th in rim defensive field goal percentage versus expected per Basketball Index. Their interior defense remains abysmal with Jonas Valanciunas manning the paint, and CJ McCollum’s poor point-of-attack defense is letting drivers in at will . As a result, the Pelicans are currently allowing the second most open plus wide open three-point attempts when adjusted for pace (only the lowly Wizards are worse) because they must help inside.
Enter the Thunder, who ranked first in drives and first in shots at the rim per 75 possessions last year (per Basketball Index). They once again lead the NBA in drives per game due to their numerous elite slashers who have only gotten better since last season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and Josh Giddey will all be able to penetrate the paint and expose New Orleans’ non-existent rim protection. Their passing grants them the ability to effectively kick it out to the arc too, where open shooters lurk. Oklahoma City ranks fourth in wide open three-point attempts because of their lethal drive-and-kick game.
Defensively, the Thunder are better equipped to slow down the Pelicans. Rookie Chet Holmgren is a devastating rim protector who paces the NBA in block percentage. His length and anticipation will be crucial here, as Zion Williamson is a freight train when attacking the basket. Lu Dort is an elite perimeter defender that can slow down CJ McCollum too. Overall, Oklahoma City’s lengthy defense leads the league in contested shots per game.
Now, Zion Williamson’s downhill strength is still nearly unstoppable, and Brandon Ingram (he’s questionable) can scorch opponents via mid-range jumpers. New Orleans will still put up a respectable amount of points, but their defense likely dooms them in this matchup. Backing the Thunder to win by at least four points is the best bet, especially with Trey Murphy III (14.5 PPG, 40.6 3PT%) out.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction: Thunder -3.5 & moneyline
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New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Best Odds
The Thunder are 3.5 points favorites in their first home televised game in years. For New Orleans’ +140 moneyline to hold a positive expected value, they must win this game about 41% of the time. The 227.5 total is on the larger end of Wednesday’s slate.
New Orleans Pelicans Starting Lineup
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries
Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and Naji Marshall are out for New Orleans, while Brandon Ingram is questionable. On the other side, key reserves Kenrich Williams and Jaylin Williams remain out for the Thunder.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Key Matchups
With Kenrich Williams and Jaylin Williams out, Oklahoma City’s frontcourt depth has taken a big hit. The Thunder have subsequently called on Olivier Sarr to play solid minutes. The 7’0” rim runner is coming off of a 9 rebound and 3 block performance against Detroit’s beefy frontcourt, and Oklahoma City desperately needs his size against New Orleans. If Sarr can contribute quality backup minutes by protecting the glass and contesting paint shots against Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas, then the Thunder can hold the line when Holmgren sits.
Jones was arguably the best Shai Gilgeous-Alexander defender across the entire NBA last season. His size neutralizes the Thunder guard’s typical advantage, and Jones possesses the footwork and hands to both somewhat stay in front of “SGA” and disrupt his dribble. The All-NBA First Team scorer won’t be neutralized in the slightest, but Jones can take him out of his rhythm and force more misses than usual.