On Thursday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder head to New Orleans to square off with the Pelicans. Oklahoma City had won four of their last five games heading into a Tuesday game with San Antonio. The Pelicans were 5-2 over their last seven games prior to a meeting with Tuesday matchup with Portland. The return of Zion Williamson has finally given the Pelicans the spark they have needed.
Oklahoma City is currently in a playoff position, but it is fighting with Houston and Dallas for the fifth through seventh spots in the Western Conference standings. New Orleans is trying to make up some ground and get into the postseason picture, though it has some work to do. With plenty of basketball left to play, it isn’t time for the Pelicans to hit the panic button quite yet.
Led by point guard Chris Paul, the Thunder have been a pleasant surprise this season. Paul is averaging 17.2 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, earning an All-Star nod for the first time since 2016. His numbers are down slightly compared to his career numbers, but he isn’t too far off. Some of that can be equated to the talent around him.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is once again playing well this season. Alexander leads the Thunder in scoring and trails only Paul in steals per game with 1.2. He also averages 6.2 rebounds per game, trailing only Steven Adams’ 9.2 for the team lead.
Adams is once again asserting his dominance in the paint, leading the team in rebounds and blocks.
Williamson has turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for New Orleans. The team sputtered a bit out of the gate upon his return but has since been red hot. Williamson missed Saturday night’s game against the Pacers with an ankle injury but practiced in full on Monday and says he’s ready to go.
Williamson is averaging 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in the first eight games he’s participated in, to go along with a handful of highlight-reel plays in his young career. Brandon Ingram is bringing 20 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists this season. Ingram has become the player that the Lakers always wanted him to be in New Orleans and will be making his first All-Star appearance this weekend.
Tip-off for this one is scheduled for 8 pm ET at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on Thursday night. The Thunder have won the first three meetings between the two teams this season, though all of those occurred before Williamson started playing, and the last win was by only three points.