Resilient Pelicans Face Biggest Bounce-Back Test of the Season In Game 2

OKLAHOMA CITY – No matter the state of the roster, who has been in the lineup or out, the New Orleans Pelicans have shown an exceptional ability to bounce back after defeat this season.

Through 82 games of the regular season, and two Play-In games, the Pelicans are 20-13 (.606) after a loss.

In tonight’s Game 2 of their first round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the resiliency of Willie Green’s team will be put to the ultimate test.

Going down 0-2 in the playoffs is something that is nearly impossible to overcome in the NBA. Teams in that hole have an all-time series record of 33-416 (7.3%), though six teams have overcome that deficit over the last five seasons.

History has been less kind to the Pelicans. In eight previous playoff appearances the franchise has been down 0-2 five times, and they lost all five series with only two going past five games.

The Pelicans are 1-6 all time in Game 2 on the road. The good news is that the Pelicans were the NBA’s best road team this season and have won six of their last eight games at the Paycom Center.

Finally, the Pelicans have to overcome their season long inability to close in the clutch. They remain 0-for the season when trailing after three quarters, and down the stretch of Game One there were more turnovers than productive possessions. Whether it’s coaching or execution, something has to change.

Keys to the Game

Can’t Slow Down. The Pelicans have to find as many easy scoring opportunities as possible. During the regular season, both teams were in the top half of the league in fast break points, with the Thunder posting 15.8 and the Pels scoring 15.1 points per game in transition.

However, in Game 1 the Pels were outscored 20-7 on the break. That helped OKC win the battle for points in the paint as well (42-36). Pelicans are not flightless birds, but they were grounded on Sunday night. Somehow, they must unclip their wings and start soaring on Wednesday.

Get Jonas (and Larry) More Touches. During the three regular season matchups with the Thunder, JV was third on the Pelicans in scoring (13.0) but fifth in shot attempts (8.7). In Game 1, Valanciunas maintained his point production while putting together one of the best rebounding games of his career with 20 boards, including nine on the offensive glass. With points at a premium in the postseason, and without Zion Williamson to batter OKC inside, the Pelicans need to look to one of their most effective and efficient scorers. When the Pels do play “small-ball,” Larry Nance has a favorable matchup with his athleticism against the Thunder’s undersized front line.

Ingram/CJ Take it Back to 2022. The last time the Pelicans were in the playoffs, they were also down 0-1 on the road to the Western Conference’s top seed. After being shut down by the Suns in Game 1, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum combined to score 60 points on 20-39 shooting (9-13 3PA). The Pelicans don’t necessarily need 60 points from the duo in Game 2, but they do need both of them to be at their best tonight.

Brandon Ingram4715.7194938.72540.0.959
CJ McCollum3612.0164535.642020.0.800
Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum Scoring Last 3 Games

New Orleans is 1-3 since BI returned from injury, with Ingram scoring more than 20 points just once. It’s no coincidence that is also the only win for the Pelicans during this stretch. Ingram seems less explosive since the injury, so Willie Green has to get more creative in how he utilizes Ingram. Whether it is putting BI in the mid-post or using screeners, the Pels will have to create advantages for Ingram wherever they can.

After holding it down for the Pels from the perimeter down the stretch (30.1 ppg, 52.5 3P% over last seven regular season games), and having one of the best shooting seasons in the NBA, McCollum has gone cold at the wrong time. While CJ set a franchise record for three-pointers during the regular season, he’s made only four triples during the postseason. The Pelicans have to find a way to get him going once again.

Most Recent Starting Lineups

New Orleans PelicansOklahoma City Thunder
G – CJ McCollumG – Josh Giddey
G – Herb JonesG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
F – Brandon IngramG – Lu Dort
F – Trey MurphyF – Jalen Williams
C – Jonas ValanciunasC – Chet Holmgren


New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson (left hamstring strain) is OUT. 

Oklahoma City Thunder: None reported

Who: (8) New Orleans Pelicans at (1) Oklahoma City Thunder

Series Schedule:

  • Game 1: Thunder def. Pelicans, 94-92
  • Game 2: Wednesday, April 24
  • Game 3: Saturday, April 27
  • Game 4: Monday, April 29
  • Game 5: Wednesday, May 1 (if necessary)
  • Game 6: Friday, May 3 (if necessary)
  • Game 7: Sunday, May 5 (if necessary)

Where: Paycom Center

When: Apr. 24, 8:30 PM CDT

Where to watch: TNT/truTV/Bally Sports New Orleans

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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