After a two-season hiatus, the Oklahoma City Thunder have returned to the NBA postseason.
No, they didn’t get an automatic bid into the playoffs, but a play-in berth has fans revitalized and ready for the Thunder to rise to championship contention once again.
After the expectation was to win anywhere from 17 to 24 games this year by multiple sportsbooks, the Thunder essentially doubled the predictions up by finishing with 40 wins for the 12th time in 15 seasons, thanks to a Coach of the Year candidate in Mark Daigneault, a First-Team All-NBA caliber Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Rookie of the Year candidate Jalen Williams, All-Defense caliber Luguentz Dort, and one of the best second-year players in Josh Giddey, not to mention the rest of their young core.
The Thunder will play New Orleans on Wednesday night for a chance to play the loser of the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Here’s a brief run-down of some important numbers before OKC’s Wednesday matchup.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 33.5 points on 45.7% shooting against the Pelicans this season (played in all four games).
The Pelicans went 3-1 against the Thunder this season. The Thunder’s one victory against the Pelicans saw them win by 14 points, while the three wins for the Pelicans were by a combined 10 points.
Yes, Oklahoma City has lost three of four matchups against the Pelicans, but (as noted above), OKC has outscored New Orleans 437-432 in the season series. So what does this mean? New Orleans has closed games better than OKC.
The Thunder shot 42.9% from the floor against the Pelicans this season, almost four points lower than their season average of 46.5%. The Thunder shot 32.1% from 3 against the Pelicans, below their average of 35.6% from 3 this season.
The Thunder averaged 117.5 points this season, fifth-most in the NBA.
The Pelicans were 15-5 this season when Trey Murphy hit four or more 3-pointers.
The Thunder are 11-4 this season when hitting more than 15 3-pointers.
The Pelicans were just 4-23 this season when scoring less than 110 points, with two of those wins coming against the Thunder.