Thunder vs Pelicans: Back The Underdog

Action Network contributor Joe Dellera provides his betting picks and prediction for a showdown between Western Conference contenders, the Thunder and the Pelicans on Tuesday.

Thunder vs. Pelicans Odds

Thunder Odds -1
Pelicans Odds +1
Moneyline -115 / -105
Over/Under 223.5
Time Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here’s everything you need to know about Thunder vs. Pelicans on Tuesday, March 26 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today’s game.

The Oklahoma City Thunder visit New Orleans on Tuesday night to take on the Pelicans in a showdown between two of the Western Conference’s best teams.

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Thunder vs. Pelicans Prediction

Pick: Pelicans +2

Thunder Betting Outlook

The Thunder come into this game healthy as they chase the 1-seed in the Western Conference. They sit a half-game back of the Nuggets but are tied in the loss column and have a loss edge on the Timberwolves as well.

This game is important not only for seeding for OKC, but to see how it stacks up against another Western Conference hopeful.

Since the All-Star Break, the Thunder have the fourth-best Net Rating (+7.3) with a balanced attack from the offensive and defensive sides of the floor.

One of the interesting details for OKC is since the break that it’s losing the offensive rebounding battle. It’s one of the worst ORB% teams in the league, so it’s getting fewer second-chance opportunities. However, the Thunder limit their opponents’ second-chance opportunities as well.

The biggest swing post-ASB is they’ve seen a decline in their own free-throw rate, going from 20.8 to 17.5. However, they’re still fouling their opponents at a higher clip (21.3, 18.3%), per Cleaning the Glass. While fouls have come down generally since the break, those numbers relative to the rest of the league are where they’ve lost some of their edge.

Additionally, although seemingly marginal, their offense has regressed a bit since the break. They make 2.8 fewer free throws on 3.4 attempts; the 3-point percentage has dipped from 39.3% to 37.7%, and that has brought the eFG% down from 57.5% to 56.5%, per Basketball Reference.

The team is still excellent but is a touch less efficient.

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Pelicans Betting Outlook

The Pelicans are currently dealing with an injury to Brandon Ingram (knee), where he’s expected to miss at least another week and a half. I wrote about some of the betting implications and pivots of that injury in my Player Props Forecast, and I’m grabbing Zion Williamson over 5.5 assists at+120 at DraftKings.

The thing about Ingram’s injury is that the team obviously takes a hit; however, it forces it to play differently, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Lineups with CJ McCollum, Zion and Ingram all on the floor have a -1.2 Net Rating. Remove Ingram? +4.3. Remove Zion instead? +12.5. Remove CJ? +13.0, per Cleaning the Glass.

For whatever reason, the spacing and rotations just don’t work to form a positive long-term Net Rating with the trio on the floor.

The numbers with Zion and CJ on and Ingram off are a bit deceiving. There are a few truly abysmal combinations, but the most-used lineup of CJ, Trey Murphy, Herb Jones, Zion, and Jonas Valanciunas has a +23.7 Net Rating in a small sample of 106 possessions.

Zion can work as a primarily facilitator and lead the team out in transition and in the half-court. He becomes a matchup nightmare for opponents due to his size and strength.

That size and toughness is something that should bother a relatively undersized Oklahoma City team. We’ve seen OKC get beat up when the Lakers play bully ball on the interior with LeBron and AD; New Orleans may be able to replicate that with Zion and Valanciunas.

Thunder vs. Pelicans Picks, Odds

These teams have split the season series with New Orleans taking the game in November while Oklahoma City took the most recent contest in January. The game New Orleans won, though, featured Zion, while the January contest did not.

Zion is a nightmare matchup for the Thunder, and I think the interior presence that he provides will be extremely difficult for the Thunder to align themselves with.

On the season, both Oklahoma City and New Orleans have been ATS darlings with a 40-29-1 record and a 40-30-1 record, respectively.

However, one spot OKC has struggled in is as a road favorite, going just 11-12 ATS compared to New Orleans at 5-3 as a home ‘dog. The numbers are even more clear that OKC has relative struggles ATS in this specific spot considering it’s 30-23 ATS as a favorite overall, while New Orleans has thrived as a ‘dog at 16-9 ATS.

I like the matchup for the Pelicans, and I don’t downgrade them as much without Ingram considering their depth of talent on the roster. Couple that with the ATS trends, and I’ll grab the points.

Pick: Pelicans +2