2 main factors that will lead to Thunder winning Game 1 vs Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans / Sean Gardner/GettyImages
1 of 3

The New Orleans Pelicans slogged their way through the Play-In Tournament and managed to snatch the final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings, setting them up for a first-round date with the top-seeded OKC Thunder.

Their playoff-securing win came at a rather grave cost, however, as Zion Williamson injured his hamstring in the process. It’s unclear when he will return at this point, though it is being rumbled that the star forward is set to miss a few games at a minimum. 

They now face a formidable Thunder squad that was just one of two teams (Celtics included) this season to rank top four in offensive and defensive rating. Additionally, they were first in net turnover rate, second in true shooting percentage, and eighth in clutch net rating.

Oklahoma City is definitely a young, inexperienced team, but they own the statistical profile of a true championship contender. 

The Thunder went 2-1 against the Pelicans this season and absolutely dominated them 107-83 in the sole game played without Williamson in tow.

It’s worth noting that there is a bit of history between these teams, as OKC eliminated New Orleans last year in the Play-In Tournament despite being the lower seed. Josh Giddey notably dropped 31 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds in that contest, while Lu Dort came up huge with 27 efficient points. 

Although Williamson’s injury significantly weakens New Orleans, the series is far from a cakewalk with Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and a slew of quality role players in Oklahoma City’s path. Can the Thunder win their first playoff game since 2020? Should they hone in on a couple of key factors, they very well could.