To Say that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has exceeded expectations this year would be an understatement. The Thunder point guard has led his squad to a 40-win season and a chance at the playoffs just three years into the team’s rebuild.
He also made the NBA All-Star team and finished fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 31.4 points per game during the regular season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were projected to win just 23.5 games this season, but have found themselves in a play-in scenario in year three of their rebuild.
Oklahoma City travels to New Orleans to take on the pelicans on Wednesday night. This opportunity puts them in a position to potentially make it to the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Shai has played well against New Orleans this season. He posted a career high 44 points against the Pelicans on Dec. 23, 2022 and has averaged 33.5 points per game when opposing New Orleans this regular season.
Although Shai has shined against this western conference opponent, that has not necessarily been the case for the rest of the team. Oklahoma City has lost three of the four games that they have played against the Pelicans this season. However, Oklahoma City was able to get a 110-96 win in their most recent matchup in the month of march.
One difference in this most recent matchup was Oklahoma City’s ability to jump out to an early lead. The Thunder outscored New Orleans by 19 points in the first half of that game, which helped them cruise to a victory. Shai’s 35 points in that contest also played a big role in maintaining a lead throughout the game.
“Once the ball tips, it will be our habits versus their habits and who can impose their will on the game, more”, said Shai after practice on Tuesday.
That is exactly what Oklahoma City will need to do in order to get a win on Wednesday night. They will also need another big performance from their All-Star point guard if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The winner of Wednesday’s matchup will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in the third and final game of the western conference play-in tournament.
The winner of that game will claim the eighth seed in the western conference playoffs.