Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Richardson (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

Thunder and Pelicans Face Off in Must-Win NBA Play-In Game

The Oklahoma City Thunder will take on the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Play-In Tournament Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 9:30 p.m.

How the Play-In Tournament Works

The layout of the play-in tournament, which is in its third year of existence, is as follows: The No. 7 seed plays the No. 8 seed and the winner is officially in the playoffs and faces the No. 2 seed in the first round. The No. 9 seed then plays the No. 10 seed, with the loser being eliminated. The loser of the No. 7 v. No. 8 game then plays the winner of the No. 9 v. No. 10 game, and the winner of that gets the last playoff spot and plays the No. 1 seed. The Pelicans finished ninth in the West, meaning they will host the Thunder.

The winner of Wednesday’s game will play the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road, while the loser will go home. The Wolves, who lost a heartbreaker Tuesday night in an overtime battle with the Los Angeles Lakers, still need a win to get in.

Key Players for the Pels

New Orleans got off to a red-hot start to the season but cooled off quickly when the injury plague hit the team. The Pelicans held on to secure a 42-40 record and the ninth seed in the Western Conference. Brandon Ingram, one of the players who has battled injury this year, is healthy and will play Wednesday. This is a huge boost for New Orleans, as Ingram averaged 24.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game in 45 games this season.

Fellow former Duke Blue Devil, Zion Williamson, will not play. Williamson, plagued by injury in his young NBA career, was incredible when he played this year but hasn’t been on the floor in months. He averaged a team-high 26 points per game but got hurt 29 games into his season and hasn’t played since.

Other key contributors on the squad include veteran shooting guard CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy III and defensive wizard Herbert Jones. Jones is tied for seventh in the league in steals per game. However, not everyone will be available, a trend Pelicans fans are all too familiar with. Jose Alvarado is out tonight, while Larry Nance Jr. is doubtful. Both average over 20 minutes and over six points per game.

Thunder Outlook

Oklahoma City overachieved this season, as many experts thought the Thunder would be Western Conference bottom-feeders this year. Instead, they went 40-42 and beat out the star-studded Dallas Mavericks for the final play-in spot.

Much of their success can be attributed to star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He put up 31.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game this year. The other half of OKC’s backcourt is Josh Giddey. The Aussie led the team in assists, rebounds and finished second in points while being a standout defender in his sophomore campaign.

Jalen Williams and Luguentz Dort are also key contributors for this young Thunder team.

Regular Season Matchups

These teams faced off four times in the regular season, with the Pelicans winning three of those battles. New Orleans went 27-14 at home this year while Oklahoma City went 16-25 on the road.

The game is set to tipoff at 9:30 p.m.

About Joseph Baker

Check Also

Hugh Freeze

Auburn Set to Host Samford Saturday

Week 3 of the college football season will feature a non-conference matchup between the Auburn …