NBA Playoffs Pelicans at Thunder Game 1 Betting Preview

OKC Comes In as the #1 Seed in the West

It’s time for Oklahoma City to prove that they are for real in the Pelicans at Thunder Game 1 betting matchup. OKC (57-25) won the top seed in the Western Conference but many people still see them as the team that had missed the playoffs the previous three years and haven’t made it to the second round since 2016.

The Pelicans were playing for the #7 seed on the final day of the regular season, but a loss to the Lakers in that game and in the play-in tournament forced New Orleans to make it this far the hard way. A 105-98 victory over the Kings on Friday finally allowed the Pels’ to punch their ticket to the postseason for just the second time since 2018. OKC is a lofty -8.5 favorite in Game 1.

Why the Pelicans Have Value at +8.5

New Orleans’ 124-108 loss to the Lakers last Sunday as -1.5 home favorite caused them to play extra games and that proved to be costly, as Zion Williamson injured his hamstring on Tuesday vs. L.A and will likely miss this series.

While the loss of Williamson definitely hurts, there are some positives of New Orleans having to participate in the play-in tournament. One, they get Oklahoma City who doesn’t have a ton of playoff experience instead of the stifling defense of the veteran-laden Timberwolves. The Pelicans have also been able to stay in rhythm playing Tuesday and Friday, while OKC has been sitting idle for a week which NBA players aren’t used to.

Another advantage of New Orleans doing the play-in tournament is that it’s two extra games for Brandon Ingram to work his way back. Ingram was out from March 21st to April 14th with a knee injury and looked rusty in his return, but he might be back to form after going for 24/6/6 vs. Sacramento on Friday.

Why the Thunder Have Value at -8.5

While the Pelicans were able to stay in rhythm with a couple of extra games in the play-in tournament, Oklahoma City runs the 6th fastest pace in the league and are also one of the youngest teams in the NBA. When you combine that tempo and youth as well as the emotions of playing in a road playoff game it wouldn’t be a shock to see New Orleans run out of gas in the second half of the series opener.

While the core of Oklahoma City like Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren, and Josh Giddey lack playoff experience, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has played 13 postseason games and Lu Dort 6 so that’s at least some experience. Game 1 might see a veteran like Gordon Hayward (2 postseason appearances each with Utah and Boston) sees a little more playing time to calm the nerves of the youngsters.

Gilgeous-Alexander will be the key to OKC covering in Game 1, and he’s been nothing short of MVP caliber this season. scoring 30.1 ppg to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds.

Free Pelicans at Thunder Game 1 Betting Pick

While Oklahoma City did get the win shorthanded on Friday, don’t underestimate how big the absence of Williamson is. The big man was playing great with 40/11/5 before getting hurt with just over 3 minutes left against the Lakers on Tuesday. If you want to stay close with an OKC team that was 33-8 at home this year, you need all hands on deck – and the Pelicans do not have that.

Free Pick: Oklahoma City -8.5

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