Pelicans vs. Thunder: Betting Picks and Prediction for Game 2

Aidan McGrath
Aidan McGrath@ffaidanmcgrath
Pelicans vs. Thunder: Betting Picks and Prediction for Game 2

The New Orleans Pelicans may have limped into the playoffs, but they put on an impressive show in their narrow, two-point Game 1 loss to the top seed in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Pelicans triumphed over the Sacramento Kings in the Play-In Tournament to earn their spot in the NBA Playoffs proper but lost star forward Zion Williamson to a hamstring injury in the process. And while fellow forward Brandon Ingram managed to return from the knee injury that kept him out of their last 12 regular season games, he hasn't quite looked like himself yet in the postseason.

Despite those hurdles, the Pelicans still brought a ton of tenacity to Game 1, nearly pulling off the upset against the Thunder's young group of stars.

On the flip side, the Thunder looked like they had a case of nerves on Sunday night. As exciting as their breakout regular season campaign was, Sunday night was the first time the Thunder's young core made the playoffs together, and it was the franchise's first playoff game since the 2019-20 season.

While they ultimately pulled off the win, they didn't look like the team that won the Western Conference this season. Can they return to form in Game 2, or are the lights too bright for the youngest lineup in the league?

All NBA odds come from FanDuel Sportsbook and may change after this article is published.

NBA Playoffs Betting

Pelicans-Thunder Betting Odds

Date and Time: Wednesday, April 24th at 9:30 p.m. ET

Spread: Thunder -7.5 (-110)

Total: 211.5


  • Pelicans: +250
  • Thunder: -310

Pelicans vs. Thunder Advanced Stats Breakdown

nERD via numberFire. Adjusted offensive/defensive ratings and pace via DunksAndThrees.

  • New Orleans Pelicans:
    • nERD: 64.4 (5th)
    • Adjusted Offensive Rating: 116.5 (13th)
    • Adjusted Defensive Rating: 112.0 (6th)
    • Pace: 98.5 (16th)
    • Against-the-Spread Record: 43-37-2
  • Oklahoma City Thunder:
    • nERD: 73.1 (2nd)
    • Adjusted Offensive Rating: 118.3 (3rd)
    • Adjusted Defensive Rating: 111.5 (4th)
    • Pace: 100.8 (5th)
    • Against-the-Spread Record: 46-35-1

Pelicans vs. Thunder Best Bet

Pelicans +7.5 (-110)

Even with a limited Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans did an excellent job controlling the flow of the game in Game 1. With Jonas Valanciunas dominating the boards -- 9 of his 20 rebounds were on offense -- they kept the Thunder's third-ranked offense in check throughout the evening. The 94 points the Thunder scored on Sunday were the second-fewest they scored in a game this whole season.

The Pelicans have an edge on the boards with Valanciunas. The Thunder allowed their opponents to collect 11.8 ORB per game during the season, a mark only foes of the 29th-ranked Washington Wizards exceeded. Chet Holmgren is extremely talented, but he is not a traditional paint-dominating center. As long as the Pelicans continue getting more second chances on offense than the Thunder, they should be able to keep exerting control over the pace of the game and keep the score close.

Even if the Thunder bounce back and return to their usual high-scoring form, there's room for growth from the Pelicans in that department, as well. During the regular season, New Orleans shot .383 from the three-point range, the fourth-best make rate in the league. On Sunday, they drained only 28.2% of their attempts. The Thunder weren't particularly known for their three-point defense during the year, so I would expect the Pelicans to sink more of their three-pointers in Game 2.

The Thunder are the better team here -- they did finish first in the Western Conference, after all. But even without Zion Williamson available, the Pelicans are still a team that demands respect. numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics liked them better than any non-Boston Celtics teams in the Eastern Conference.

And while on/off splits are by no means a definitive, end-all descriptor of a team's performances, it's worth pointing out that the Pelicans were slightly better on offense and defense with Williamson off the court by the numbers. Their Offensive Rating (ORtg) improved by 1.3 points without Williamson, while their opponents' ORtg decreased by 3.9 points without Williamson on the court.

I'm not saying the Pelicans are actually a better team without Williamson, but rather that the Pelicans are a formidable team even without the former first-overall pick. While I still see the Thunder pulling out to a 2-0 series win, I think the Pelicans will continue to make them work for it until the bitter end.

Pelicans vs. Thunder Prop Bet

Brandon Ingram Over 5.5 Assists (+102)

It's pretty clear that Ingram isn't yet all the way back from the knee injury that sidelined him at the end of the regular season. He scored just 5 of his 17 field goal attempts in Game 1 while struggling to shake free of the Thunder's tight defense.

The good news is that his minutes are climbing back up. He has played over 37 minutes in each of his last two games and has still been heavily involved in the Pelicans' offense, even if he mustered up just 12 points on Sunday.

The Pelicans are a smart team that showed an ability to adapt throughout the season, and I think they'll recognize that the Thunder are getting good pressure on Ingram. That could mean they run more plays off of him rather than plays for him.

Over the regular season, Ingram averaged 5.7 assists per game while playing 32.9 minutes a night. As we mentioned before, his minutes have been back up over 37 in each of his last two games -- he averaged 6.2 assists per 36 minutes during the season. Furthermore, his per-game average jumped from 5.7 assists to 6.3 assists in games without Williamson.

With how Valanciunas played in Game 1, I wouldn't be surprised if New Orleans tries to get him more involved on offense in Game 2. If they do try to get him more opportunities in the paint, those could be assist opportunities for Ingram.

Finally, Game 1 was a shockingly low-scoring affair. We mentioned before that it was the second-fewest points Oklahoma City had scored in a game all year, but it was also the third-fewest points the slower-paced Pelicans scored, as well. If these teams regress closer to their usual scoring output, that means they'll have scored more buckets -- which means more opportunities for assists.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author’s advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.