Home » Pelicans vs. Thunder Game 3 prediction: Can New Orleans win at the Smoothie King Center?

Pelicans vs. Thunder Game 3 prediction: Can New Orleans win at the Smoothie King Center?

Down 0-2 in a best-of-seven series, the New Orleans Pelicans hope a return home will help them in their opening-round matchup against the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder this evening.

The Pelicans pushed the Thunder in Game 1 and even had a chance to steal a win, but ultimately dropped a 94-92 decision. Oklahoma City responded with a convincing 124-92 victory in Game 2, making Game 3 a must-win for the hosts at the Smoothie King Center.

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Oklahoma City has won four in a row against New Orleans, covering the spread in three of those matchups. The Pelicans haven’t bested the Thunder since a 110-106 victory on Nov. 1, a game that was played at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City. The betting market believes New Orleans has a much better chance at home, despite the Pelicans’ poor record in front of their fans this season.

The Thunder are 1-point favorites on the road after laying as much as 8.5 points in Game 1. The over/under is 209 after being as high as 216.5 in the opener, as well, which speaks volumes to the play thus far.

Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:

Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans

Time/TV: 2:30 p.m. CT (TNT)

Spread (from FanDuel Sportsbook): Thunder -1

Total: 209

Moneyline: Thunder -112, Pelicans -104

Analysis: The best betting angle in the NBA Playoffs has returned, providing an opportunity to back the Pelicans.

Before this round, NBA teams down 0-2 have gone 100-61-3 (62%) against the spread in the first half of Game 3 since 2005. Teams went 2-1 in that scenario on Thursday with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers covering their first-half spreads in Game 3. That trend should continue on Saturday, with New Orleans getting its first home playoff game.

According to EV Analytics, the Pelicans had the second-best ROI in the league during the first half of games this past season. Their ROI of 14.74% trailed only the Boston Celtics (26.74%), who have the best record in the league.

New Orleans ranked second in first-half net rating (+10) this year, once again only trailing Boston’s mark of +15.7. The Pelicans led the league in first-half defensive rating and were sixth in offensive rating.

This isn’t your typical matchup between a No. 1 seed and a No. 8 seed, as evidenced by Game 1. These teams are closer on paper, and the Pelicans should put up a pretty good fight on Saturday.

Prediction: Pelicans 105, Thunder 104 (PUSH 209)

Best bet: Pelicans first-half spread -0.5 (-120 via ESPN BET)

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