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
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Lu Dort’s Defense On CJ McCollum

Williamson paces New Orleans in points per game and sits second in assists per game, so his injury represents a massive blow to their offense. The Pelicans, subsequently, need CJ McCollum to ramp up his scoring volume and carry the shot creation load via pick-and-roll playmaking in order to keep pace with the Thunder’s third-ranked offense. 

The veteran averaged the ninth most above the break three-point attempts per game across the NBA this season, as well as the 21st most pull-up attempts from deep per game (min. 30 games).

With this, it will be critical for Oklahoma City’s guards to fight through high ball screens and get to McCollum before he has space to launch. 

Enter Lu Dort, who is one of the top screen navigators in the league.

Dort’s ability to bend around contact and not be bumped off course deems him an excellent option to deter McCollum’s pull-up jumper. Plus, nobody sells contact like the 25-year-old does.

He has ranked fourth, first, second, first, and first in offensive fouls drawn per 75 possessions across his professional career (via Basketball Index). 

If McCollum struggles to generate clean shots and does not approach around 25 points per game, then it’s unlikely that New Orleans has the firepower to pull off the upset in Sunday's Game 1. Overall, Lu Dort will be a crucial piece for the Thunder defense here.