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NBA Playoffs Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans.

The NBA’s Western Conference playoffs are underway, and the first set of games featured an absolute thriller between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans in game 1. The Thunder won by only 2 points in a 94-92 victory, setting the tone for the rest of the series. Regardless of the seed disparity, the teams are still matched up relatively well, resulting from the competitiveness in the Western Conference. The West is known for its competitiveness; for instance, All three candidates for Most Valuable Player are all in the Western Conference. Luka Doncic from the Dallas Mavericks, Nikola Jokic from the Denver Nuggets, and the Thunder’s centerpiece, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.


Alexander picked up where he left off in the regular season and led the entire game in scoring with 28 points. At just 25, he has become an absolute superstar, but now he will face the biggest test of his career as he leads the No.1 team in the Western Conference into the playoffs. Potential rookie of the year Chet Holmgren has proven why he was chosen No.2 overall. Jalen Williams has adjusted to the role of power forward nicely and has developed into a star. They are very talented, but the Pelicans are not intimidated by their personnel.


Losing Zion Williamson in the Play-In round was devastating for the Pelicans, and they were on their way to a possible victory over the Los Angeles Lakers before his hamstring injury occurred. He was unstoppable in the post with 40 points, shooting 17-27, and his aggression was a significant issue for the Lakers’ defense, which would’ve been extremely useful against the Thunder. No one on their team would have been able to stop Williamson one-on-one. Alas, the show must go on, and the Pelicans still have CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram available.


In game 1, McCollum scored 20 points and delivered six assists, while Ingram had 12 points with six rebounds. Trey Murphy III had an outstanding performance, finishing with 21 points, and made pivotal shots throughout the game. It will be hard to replace Williamson’s contributions of 23 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. Even though their first option is injured, the two-point loss has given the Pelicans hope of winning the series. The Thunder are fully healthy, and they are also the most inexperienced team in the entire league, regardless of their success. 


It will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of the playoffs, especially with all the hype they gathered from the regular season. Many critics in the media believe the Thunder are too young for a deep run, and the Pelicans will try to take advantage of their inexperience, which they almost did in game 1. This suggests that a fully healthy Pelicans roster would’ve had an excellent chance to win the series, or at least better than people thought. 


The Pelicans will come out aggressive in game 2, knowing how close they were to victory, and they want to avoid a 2-0 deficit. Alexander and Holmgren will have to set the tone in the first half, similar to how they did in game 1. It will be a battle in the post-all series between Holmgren and Jonas Valanciunas. Both finished with 15+ rebounds and attacked each other offensively in their first meeting.


The Thunder versus Pelicans has the potential to be the best series in the entire first round of the playoffs. Game 1 was electric, and both teams are participating in a playoff atmosphere after terrible seasons the year before. The crowd’s boost encourages more entertaining basketball, but most importantly, whoever wins will be one step closer to the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 


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