New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder (-11, 219 o/u)
Not many people were expecting the New Orleans Pelicans (20-32, 6-20 road) to start the year 1-11 after their impressive run to the postseason last year. Their dreadful start put the Pelicans behind the eight-ball in the Western Conference playoff race, but the team is showing some signs of life, winning two straight and seven of its last 12. They’ll look to make it three in a row tonight when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder (39-14, 24-5 home) at Chesapeake Energy Arena (8:00 PM Eastern).
The Pelicans are currently 12 games under .500 and six games back of the final playoff spot in the West.
Star forward Anthony Davis, who was a popular dark-horse pick for league MVP at the outset of the season, hasn’t stepped up his game as predicted. The Kentucky product’s production is actually down from last year (24.4 PPG vs. 23.4 PPG; 10.2 RPG vs. 10.1 RPG; 2.2 APG vs. 1.8 APG). Though he’s been getting stronger as the season’s gone on, averaging over 27 PPG in the last five.
The secondary production from Jrue Holiday (14.9 PPG) has been clutch in the Pelicans’ two-game win streak. Holiday had a combined 48 points in the pair of wins.
New Orleans will need continued production from Holiday and the rest of the supporting cast tonight against the high-scoring Thunder (109.9 PPG, second in the NBA). OKC’s prolific offense has them sitting comfortably atop the Northwest, holding a 12.5-game lead over Portland.
That lead has continued to grow over the last month as the Thunder have taken 13 of their past 15 games. They haven’t lost at home since a surprising 116-104 setback to the Kings in early January, rattling off eight straight at Chesapeake Energy Arena since then.
Leading scorer Kevin Durant ( PPG) is an impending free agent and has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the deadline, but the rumors haven’t affected his play. The former MVP has put up 36.3 PPG over the last three, including 32 points in the team’s 122-106 win over Phoenix on Monday.
The Pelicans have been terrible on the road all season, but their recent games against OKC are encouraging for bettors. They’re 5-1 ATS in the last six against the Thunder, and 6-2 ATS in the last eight in Oklahoma City. Their ATS record on the road (11-15) isn’t nearly as bad as their SU record, also. Take the Pelicans and the double-digit spread.
Pick: Pelicans +11.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Cloudnet: ) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)