It's win or go home for the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder. As the No. 9 and No. 10 teams in the Western Conference, a win will provide the victor with an opportunity to extend their season for at least one more game, while a loss will end it. With their seasons hanging in the balance, both teams will be playing desperately as they try to get a shot a claiming the No. 8 spot in the West playoffs.
The Pelicans and Thunder should be pretty familiar with each other at this point, as they met four times during the regular season. New Orleans won three of those contests, but the Thunder won the most recent meeting last month. The stakes will be slightly higher this time around, so it will be interesting to see how the teams respond.
In preparation for the game, here's everything you need to know about this matchup.
(9) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (10) Oklahoma City Thunder
- When: Wednesday, April 12 | 9:30 p.m. ET
- Where: Smoothie King Center -- New Orleans, Louisiana
- TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
- Odds: Pelicans -5.5; O/U: 226.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Pelicans: The main storyline for the Pelicans heading into this one is the continued absence of star forward Zion Williamson. Williamson hasn't played in a game for New Orleans since Jan.2 due to a hamstring injury, and he won't be lacing up his signature Jordans for the Play-In Tournament either. There is still no timetable for his return to action, and while speaking with media members on Tuesday, Williamson made it clear that he didn't want to negatively impact his team by playing before he's ready.
"If I feel like Zion again," he replied when asked if he'll return to action if the Pelicans are able to make the playoffs. "I understand the magnitude of these games and I don't want to be out there hesitating or affecting the team in a bad way."
The Pelicans' ceiling as a team is substantially lower without Williamson, so it will be tough for them to come out victorious against Oklahoma City.
Thunder: The fact that the Thunder are even here is pretty impressive, as it's not something many pundits predicted for such a young team. Oklahoma City's success this season is even more impressive when you consider that they were missing the No. 2 overall pick from last year's draft, Chet Holmgren, for the entirety of the season. With a roster brimming with young talent, the future is bright in Oklahoma City, but make no mistake, they're still very formidable in the present. Regardless of the outcome, the play-in game against New Orleans, and any subsequent games, will be an excellent experience for the Thunder's young core.
Williamson being sidelined means that the Thunder will have the best player on the floor in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and sometimes that's all it takes, especially in a one-game situation. The Thunder overachieved so far this season. Expect that trend to continue against New Orleans. Pick: Thunder +5.5