The Play-In Tournament bracket is set and it comes bearing an entertaining Nine-Ten matchup in the Western Conference.
The Pelicans and Thunder have had some battles all season. New Orleans took the season series against its Play-In foe, but all three of its wins were by fewer than five points.
We’ll get to see Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum try and carry the Pelicans back to the NBA Playoffs via the Play-In for the second year in a row, while the Thunder will continue to try and exceed expectations by claiming an unlikely playoff spot.
Will the young trio of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams — all of whom are under 24 years old — leave their mark on their first postseason experience? Or can the Pelicans make another run with a pair of Play-In wins to make another top-seed sweat?
The Sporting News has you covered with a preview of the Play-In Game below.
PLAY-IN PREVIEWS: Lakers vs. Timberwolves | Heat vs. Hawks | Raptors vs. Bulls
Pelicans vs. Thunder betting odds
Pelicans: -5 (-110) spread; -200 ML
Thunder: +5 (-110) spread; +170 ML
Odds are provided by DraftKings.
Pelicans vs. Thunder start time, TV channel, live streams
- Date: Wednesday, April 12
- Time: 9:30 p.m. ET | 6:30 p.m. PT
- TV channel: ESPN
In the United States, Pelicans vs. Thunder will air nationally on ESPN. Viewers in the U.S. can also stream Pelicans vs. Thunder on Sling TV.
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Pelicans vs. Thunder 2022-23 regular season series
New Orleans won the season series versus Oklahoma City, taking three out of four games.
- Nov. 28, 2022: Pelicans 105, Thunder 101
- Dec. 23, 2022: Pelicans 128, Thunder 125 (OT)
- Feb. 13, 2023: Pelicans 103, Thunder 100
- March 11, 2023: Thunder 110, Pelicans 96
If you look at the box score for each meeting, you’ll quickly realize that neither team’s lineups looked like they will during the win-or-go-home Play-In Game.
The Pelicans defeated the Thunder in their first matchup back in November, but Zion Williamson — who will not be available for the Play-In Game — was the team’s leading scorer. They outlasted the Thunder again in overtime in their second matchup, and that was without star forward Brandon Ingram.
New Orleans got the best of Oklahoma City in their third meeting, this time, without star guard C.J. McCollum. The Thunder finally stole one from the Pelicans in their most recent matchup, but New Orleans was without Ingram again.
The Pelicans were shorthanded more often than the Thunder over four regular season games, but all three of their wins were within five points.
Pelicans vs. Thunder key storyline: Star matchup of Brandon Ingram vs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
The Nine-Ten Play-In Game is win-or-go-home. One game to keep the season alive. Oftentimes, in these situations, it comes down to who is the best player on the floor.
For the Pelicans, Ingram has no reason not to believe it’s him. He only played one game against the Thunder this season but the prolific scoring forward went off for 34 points, burying a clutch bucket in the final minute of the game to push New Orleans to victory.
Ingram has been on a tear over the final month of the season, averaging 27.4 points, 7.4 assists and 6.1 rebounds since the calendar flipped to March. In that span, he recorded his first two career triple-doubles and exploded for 40 points twice.
And in the other corner, Gilgeous-Alexander has been one of the best players in the league all season. He won’t win MVP, but there are few players who were more valuable to their team than the first-time All-Star guard was to the Thunder.
Gilgeous-Alexander played in all four games against the Pelicans this season, torching New Orleans for over 30 points twice and over 40 points once. He averaged 33.5 points over four games against his Play-In opponent — an impressive feat even if the Thunder lost three of those contests.
You can expect Ingram and Gilgeous-Alexander to trade punches all game, but who will deliver the knockout blow to give their team another shot at making the NBA Playoffs?
Pelicans vs. Thunder prediction
Prediction: Thunder win
Even though the Pelicans won the season series and have experience playing in the Play-In Tournament, I think this young, tenacious Thunder squad is going to bring the energy in a win-or-go-home game.
Oklahoma City has no pressure. Everyone expected them to be in the Victor Wembanyama tankathon. No one expected them to compete for a playoff spot. New Orleans, on the other hand, was anticipated to be one of the best teams in the West (albeit, with a healthy Williamson).
A team playing with house money is dangerous and I think the best player on the floor, Gilgeous-Alexander, will be the difference-maker in keeping the Thunder’s season alive.