It may be Valentine’s Day but there is certainly no love going around the locker room of the New Orleans Pelicans. Trapped in a free fall and a situation where players are questioning the team’s effort, the All Star break can’t come soon enough.
Before they get there, the Pelicans have one more game to worry about as they host surging Oklahoma City Thunder today (8 PM ET Thursday).
Something has happened in New Orleans and it’s not good. In fact, it’s been catastrophic as the team seems to be crumbling more each day. The Pelicans opened their season with four straight wins including two commanding victories in their first two games against the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings.
After losing seven in a row to follow, the Pelicans rebounded by winning six of their next seven to stay well within the playoff race in the Western Conference. Another losing streak followed and then a stretch of .500 basketball. New Orleans still had their head above water with a record of 15-15. Their 15th win actually came against the Thunder as Anthony Davis absolutely exploded to the tune of 44 points and 18 rebounds. Unfortunately, that was the last time the Pelicans had a .500 record as the next game started a five game losing streak the likes of which New Orleans has yet to recover.
That hasn’t been the Pelicans’ biggest problem. In the team’s last 14 games, they have gone just 4-10. At the same time, they’ve been dealing with all kinds of issues regarding the locker room and star player Anthony Davis. Davis, the NBA’s fourth highest scorer this year, has expressed his frustration at how the team has been playing and in no uncertain terms made clear that he wants out of New Orleans. While it remains to be seen what Davis’ future will be, it’s clear that New Orleans has a big issue on their hands right now regarding Davis and how to deal with his unhappiness. It has led to a divisive locker room and that is never good for any team, especially one that had playoff aspirations at the start of this season.
The Thunder have been trending in the opposite direction after losing their first four to open the season. Oklahoma City, led by triple-double machine Russell Westbrook and Paul George, whose 28.7 PPG is second best in the NBA, went on to win 16 of their next 19. The team had not only righted their ship but had jumped into the top spot in the Western Conference. Currently, the Thunder occupy the third seed in the West but are just 3.5 games out of the first place slot held by the league’s powerhouse, the Golden State Warriors.
Part of the reason for OKC’s solid standing is something I mentioned earlier. They are trending upward. The Thunder have won 11 of their last 12 games dating back almost a month. In that span, George has recorded over 30 points a game all but twice and over 35, eight times. Additionally, Westbrook has topped double digits in points, assists and rebounds in each of the team’s last 10 contests, setting a new NBA record for most consecutive triple-doubles. On the season, Westbrook is actually averaging a triple-double with 21.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 11.2 APG. He also averages over two steals per contest.
New Orleans will have the slight advantage of their home court where the Pelicans are a decent 16-11 compared to a horrid 9-22 on the road. It is likely for this reason that the Thunder are only 4 or 4.5 point favorites with the United States’ online oddsmakers, when everything else considered, they easily could have been pegged for a route in this one. The internal issues within the Pelicans locker room are rearing their ugly heads and the Davis situation remains unresolved. Ultimately, all of that plays into New Orleans’ season given how much the team relies on Davis’ production and his passion day in and day out.
Off the court issues aside, OKC is just overall the better team. While both OKC and New Orleans average the same 115 PPG (5th best) on the season, what the Thunder have done recently is well above that mark. Their scoring has kicked into a whole additional gear with the team playing some of their best basketball as of late. Westbrook’s triple-double streak was already touched upon but he is not the only one capable of filling a stat sheet as in the Thunder’s last game against the Portland Trailblazers, George also recorded a line of double digit points, rebounds and assists.
While the Thunder’s scoring efficiency is only just middle of the road, they have been able to dominate on the glass (2nd in NBA in rebounds) allowing them to control the game with more possessions. This is definitely a team that uses a lot of possessions as the Thunder take more shots per game than most of the league.
It’s been a tough go of it for the Pelicans lately and their road doesn’t seem like it will be getting better anytime soon. Unless New Orleans can find a way to come to some agreements over the break, the next half of games could really be devastating. The Pelicans went from playoff hopefuls to just hoping that they can finish the season on a respectable note.
Our Preview’s Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
We are going to go with the Thunder and the points. While yes, the Pelicans are at home and yes, they hold a victory over OKC from earlier this season, this is a very different New Orleans team.
OKC shouldn’t have much trouble at all in this one, which definitely has the makings of being a runaway for the Thunder. So these are the ways our Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans predictions fall against the odds setters’ betting lines:
- Take OKC -4pts @ best odds of -110 with Intertops. This spread is -120 with Bookmaker and -122 with BetOnline, while Bovada go -4.5pts at -115. So Intertops are a bit out of line at the moment.
- As for the total points in this NBA game, these are two offensively strong teams even if the Pelicans are having trouble showing it right now. Davis, despite having seemingly low motivation, could easily turn it on and make things difficult for the Thunder. Either way, this should be a high scoring affair so the second of our picks is to look for the over on 237pts @ best odds of -105 with Bookmaker. The others go -110.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.