New Orleans Pelicans vs Oklahoma City Thunder NBA Pick – December 31

The NBA is set up with another great day of action on New Year’s Eve. Seven games will be up on the board throughout Thursday. One of these games will be between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder. These two teams will both look to earn a big win on December 31 as they battle for a tough Western Conference. This game will tip off at around 8:00 PM Eastern time.

New Orleans has started off this season with a record of 2-2, which has them tied for seventh place in the Western Conference. The Pelicans are coming off a tough loss in their previous performance and will look to knock off an Oklahoma City team that has not proven much this season. New Orleans will look to come out quickly in this one as they try to finish out the year with a win.

The Thunder have earned a record of 1-2 to open up this season, which has them in eleventh place of the Western Conference. Oklahoma City has lost back to back games after winning their season opener. The Thunder will look to get back in a win column in this one. Oklahoma City is looking entirely new after another busy offseason. The Thunder will look for that chemistry to continue to build in this one.

These two teams are both not off to fast starts this season, but still have plenty of time to turn it around. I expect both teams to come out strong in this one as they look to bring in the New Year with a win. The Pelicans seemed poised to have a breakthrough season, while the Thunder look to take a step back. If New Orleans can come out strong, they should be able to get back to above .500.

Previous Matchups

These two teams met up four times throughout last season. Oklahoma City hosted the first game on November 2. J.J. Redick dropped 17 points off the bench, while Josh Hart had 12 points and 15 rebounds. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 23 points, while Dennis Schroder and Darius Bazley both had 17 points off the bench. The Thunder were able to ride their bench to a 115-104 win at home.

The second meeting of the season was in Oklahoma City as well on November 29. Brandon Ingram scored 26 points, while J.J. Redick had 16 points. Dennis Schroder had another big night off the bench, scoring 25 points. Abdel Nader scored 19 points off the bench as the Thunder were able to pull off a nice 109-104 win at home.

New Orleans hosted the third game of the season on December 1. Jrue Holiday scored 26 points and Brandon Ingram finished with 20 points. It still was not enough for the Pelicans. Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder all scored 17 points. The Thunder won 107-104.

The final meeting of the season series was on February 13 in New Orleans. Zion Williamson scored 32 points. J.J. Redick added 24 points off the bench, but once again the Pelicans came up short. Danilo Gallinari finished with 29 points, while Dennis Schroder scored 22 points. Oklahoma City was able to sweep the season series with a 123-118 win on the road.

Top Performers

Brandon Ingram has been the best players for this Pelicans team early in the season. Ingram is averaging 23.5 points, 7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. Zion Williamson has averaged 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Lonzo Ball is averaging 11.5 points per game. Eric Bledsoe and J.J. Redick will need to step up as they are both averaging 9 points per game this season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has stepped up for Oklahoma City this season. He has averaged 23.5 points and 7.5 assists per game. Isaiah Roby is averaging 19 points per game. Luguentz Dort has averaged 18.5 points per game, while George Hill is averaging 17.5 points per game. Mike Muscala is averaging 12.5 points per game. Darius Bazley has helped the lineup adding 10 points and 9 rebounds per game.

Steven Adams will have his return to Oklahoma City in this one with the Pelicans. Adams has averaged 8.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game with New Orleans this season. The Thunder could also be without George Hill after he missed last game. If Adams can come out strong in the paint for New Orleans it will help the Pelicans knock off this Thunder team who swept them last season.

Field Goal Shooting

The Pelicans have not been great at shooting throughout the early stages of this season. New Orleans has made around 44.4 percent of their shots this season, which is 24th in the NBA. The Pelicans have also made 29.6 percent of their three point shots, which is last in the league. New Orleans has made 53.4 percent of their shots inside the arc, which is 14th in the NBA.

Oklahoma City has been solid at shooting this season. The Thunder have made around 47.1 percent of their shots from the field, which is 11th in the NBA. Oklahoma City has made 33.3 percent of their shots from deep, which is 21st in the league. The Thunder have also made 56.9 percent of their shots in close, which is 8th in the league.

The Thunder have been the better team shooting throughout this season, but New Orleans has the better defense. The Pelicans have held opposing teams to a 44.8 percent shooting percentage from the field, which is 9th in the NBA. New Orleans gives up around 104 points per game, while Oklahoma City 111.7 points per game. If the Pelicans defense can slow down the Thunder it will give them a good chance to take this one.

Pick Overview

Oklahoma City swept the Pelicans throughout their four regular season matchups last season. New Orleans should be the better team this season and I think they will bounce back with a win to open up this season series. Steven Adams will also get a matchup against his previous team and I expect him to come out strong. If Adams can play well on both sides of the floor, it will give the Pelicans a big edge.

BetOnline has New Orleans listed as a -5 against the spread in this one. This gives a solid edge to the Pelicans on the road. I agree with this line as New Orleans has a chip on their shoulder coming into this one. I think that the Pelicans will look at this game to be a statement win. If New Orleans comes out hot on Thursday night, I think they will earn a big win.

New Orleans Pelicans -5
Andruw Burling / Author

Andruw Burling has been writing sports picks since 2017, covering mainly NHL and NBA content, but doing work in other sports as well. Andruw grew up in Las Vegas and has been around sports since a young age. He grew up a huge NHL and NBA fan and continues to use that knowledge in his content today.