After a heavy loss against the Phoenix Suns, the New Orleans Pelicans are set to face off against the OKC Thunder in an enticing Western Conference encounter. Both teams will be hungry to get a win under their belt and push for a place in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, giving could see this be an extremely competitive game.
Fixture: New Orleans Pelicans vs OKC Thunder - NBA Season 2020-21
Date & Time: Thursday, 31st December 2020 - 8:00 PM ET (Friday, 1st January 2021 - 6:30 AM IST)
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
New Orleans Pelicans Preview
As expected from a team coached by Stan Van Gundy, the defense has been a point of emphasis for the New Orleans Pelicans this season. And for the most part, the franchise looks much improved on that end of the floor. However, the Pelicans do have room for improvement against the top teams, something their talent on the defensive side of the floor should ensure in the near future.
On offense, multiple individuals are blossoming into near All-Star level players. Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson, in particular, are becoming more consistent on that end of the floor. If the roster continues to develop at this rate, the New Orleans Pelicans could cause a few scares in the Western Conference.
On the injury front, only Wenyen Gabriel (knee) will be unavailable for selection against the OKC Thunder.
Key Player - Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram has performed at an All-Star level for the New Orleans Pelicans during this campaign. In four games, the 23-year-old has averaged an impressive 23.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.5 assists, shooting 45.7% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc. His defense has also improved and Ingram is starting to turn into a real asset on that end of the floor.
New Orleans Pelicans Predicted Lineup
G Lonzo Ball, B Eric Bledsoe, F Brandon Ingram, F Zion Williamson, C Steven Adams
OKC Thunder Preview
The OKC Thunder's performances have been a mixed bag this season. While the team has looked lively at times, there have also been far too many moments of inconsistency. While this is to be expected of a team looking to rebuild, the Thunder will be looking to fix the avoidable mistakes that have plagued them.
An underrated positive for the franchise during this period is the performance of Luguentz Dort. While his defense has been at an elite level for a while now, his offense has also improved rapidly.
In the three games he has played, the 21-year-old has averaged an impressive 18.7 points, shooting 54.1% from the field and 47.4% from deep. While these numbers are expected to drop as the season goes on, Dort's progress is still impressive.
News regarding the OKC Thunders' injury list has also been encouraging. While Trevor Ariza (personal) and Ty Jerome (ankle) are unlikely to make an appearance against the New Orleans Pelicans, George Hill could feature in this game.
Key Player - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has comfortably been the OKC Thunder's best player so far. The 22-year-old has averaged 23.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 7.7 assists, shooting 49% from the field and 31.3% from three-point range. While his efficiency from the perimeter can improve, Gilgeous-Alexander has made some tough shots in clutch moments, including the game-winner against the Charlotte Hornets.
OKC Thunder Predicted Lineup
G George Hill, G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, F Justin Jackson, F Al Horford, C Isiah Roby
New Orleans Pelicans vs OKC Thunder Match Prediction
While there is a possibility this could be a close matchup between the two teams, the New Orleans Pelicans are favored to beat the OKC Thunder.
The Pelicans are the more versatile team and have more quality on the roster. In fact, a blowout may well be on the cards.
Where to watch New Orleans Pelicans vs OKC Thunder?
For those in the USA, this game will be broadcasted locally on the Fox Sports Network.
International fans can stream the game live on the NBA League Pass.
Published 31 Dec 2020, 01:00 IST