New Orleans Pelicans' future could be on the line in Game 3 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The New Orleans Pelicans head back home to the bayou in an attempt to get a win in their first playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder after losing the first two games. Now, Brandon Ingram and company will try to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole and facing elimination.
Will Brandon Ingram carry the Pels to a Game 3 victory?
Will Brandon Ingram carry the Pels to a Game 3 victory? / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

Can the New Orleans Pelicans bounce back against the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder as the series shifts to their home floor?

In the first-round NBA Playoff series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans, the key matchup that everyone was anticipating watching was MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander against one of the NBA's best defenders in Herb Jones. According to, SGA has averaged 29.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists against Jones over the course of their careers.

Even though those are outstanding numbers versus any opponent, Jones is still the best option the Pelicans have to try and neutralize SGA. The Thunder will try to switch out defenders on screen and rolls in an attempt to get SGA a better matchup and it has worked for them all season long. SGA's true shooting percentage versus Jones is 56.3 percent which is a mind-blowing statistic considering the league average for true shooting percentage is 58 percent.

The Pelicans also allowed CJ McCollum and Larry Nance to guard SGA on a few possessions but to no avail. He was very efficient on 13-19 shooting with 33 points and Pelicans head coach Willie Green and staff will have to figure out another strategy. The double team won't work due to SGA's teammate's ability to shoot it efficiently from deep. The Thunder led the NBA in three-point percentage shooting collectively at a 39.9 percent clip. Jalen Williams, Cason Wallace, and Isaiah Joe are all in the top 20 in the NBA in three-point percentage, and double-teaming SGA could cost the Pelicans.

At this point, Green may attempt to deploy a 1-2-2 zone defense to try and slow down the Thunder from behind the arc. They are shooting a red-hot 39.8 percent from downtown in the last two games.

Can the New Orleans Pelicans get right on the offensive end?

On the flip side of things for the Pelicans, they missed 3-pointers largely led to the blowout defeat in Game 2. The Pelicans shot a dismal 26.9 percent as the Pelicans barely got a shot to fall. The result of the Pelicans' strategy to shoot it from deep may be due to the absence of Zion Williamson. He can change the dynamic of the game whenever he is on the floor due to his ability to get to the rim.

Williamson can get his teammates open looks because he can occupy multiple defenders. But Williamson is unavailable due to a hamstring injury and the Pelicans don't have another player who can force the opposing team to adjust. Green should consider implementing ways for the Pelicans to get to the basket and not be so quick to settle for a three-point attempt. The old adage is that "you live by the three, you die by the three" and that's exactly what happened to the Pelicans in Game 2.

Also, it is imperative that Brandon Ingram steps his game up because he is going to have to if the Pelicans are going to get back in the series. Ingram came into the season clearly sacrificing personal stats for wins but he will have to take the initiative to try and keep his team from the brink of elimination.

He will have to enter Game 3 with a scorer's mentality and will have to establish himself early so the Pelicans won't have to play from behind. Ingram can't shy away from the physicality because that is exactly how the Thunder defenders will guard him. The Thunder have one of the best wing defenders in Lugentz Dort and he has been making it difficult for Ingram to get quality shots.

Green will need to figure out a way to get Ingram more open looks without him having to take so much punishment. In Game 2 Ingram's teammates Jonas Valanciunas and CJ McCollum both shot the ball more than Ingram and the Pelicans have to collectively make sure Ingram is put in position to help them succeed. Now that the series is shifting back to New Orleans, Ingram should feel more comfortable playing in the Smoothie King Center in front of their fans. Ingram has a plus/minus of +159 at home compared to a plus/minus of +16 on the road.

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