- The New Orleans Pelicans go 2-5 SU/ATS inside the bubble
- Under bets have been kind to Pelicans' backers in these last 7 games
- Orlando makes the playoffs, but sputters down the stretch with 2-5 record
- Will either of these teams have motivation to play this regular-season finale?
New Orleans Pelicans Struggle Inside The Bubble
New Orleans' time in the bubble has been quite a disappointment. Many NBA observers wanted to see the Pelicans make it into the postseason so they could see Zion Williamson on the playoff stage. Unfortunately, New Orleans will be leaving the bubble as soon as the regular season ends. The Pelicans have gone 2-5 SU and 2-5 ATS in their games since the NBA restarted. They began the seeding games slowly with losses to the Jazz and Clippers. PF Zion Williamson played just 15 minutes and 14 minutes in these games, respectively. New Orleans won 2 of their next 3 games before faltering against the Spurs on Sunday. Their most recent game was a 112-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. The outright winner covered the spread in all 7 of New Orleans’ bubble games. Also, 6 of the Pelicans' 7 seeding games have gone under the total.
The New Orleans Pelicans are an average team on both ends of the floor. New Orleans ranks 17th in offensive rating, scoring 110.6 points per 100 possessions. The strengths of their offense are their ability to rebound and their 3-point shooting. They rank 5th in offensive rebound percentage and 6th in 3-point shooting percentage. However, New Orleans struggled with turnovers and free throws. They turn the ball over on 13.9% of their offensive plays, making them 29th in offensive turnover percentage. They also rank 29th in free throw percentage, hitting just 72.8% of their free throw attempts. Defensively, they give up 111.7 points per 100 possessions (19th in the NBA). The Pelicans rank near the middle of the pack in most major defensive categories.
Magic Do Just Enough To Make The Playoffs
The Orlando Magic's #1 goal in these NBA seeding games was to create separation in the Eastern Conference standings between them and the Washington Wizards. Orlando succeeded in securing the 4-game lead over Washington that was needed in order to clinch the #8 seed in the East. However, this had more to do with Washington's depleted roster and winless 7-game bubble stretch than it did with Orlando's level of play. The Magic won and covered their first 2 games in the bubble with victories over the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings. Since then, Orlando has gone 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS. They were able to cover in a 122-119 loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, which is the only positive thing that can be said about Orlando in the midst of this 5-game losing streak. They had a chance to beat out Brooklyn for the 7th seed in the East, but their recent poor stretch cost them that opportunity. After Thursday's game against the Pelicans, they will begin a playoff series with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Orlando had a difficult time throughout the season when it comes to generating points. The Magic rank 23rd in offensive rating, averaging 108.2 points per 100 possessions. They struggle to hit shots from both inside and outside the arc, ranking 27th in 2-point shooting percentage and 26th in 3-point shooting percentage. One positive for the Magic offense is that they do rank 4th in offensive turnover percentage, giving the ball away on just 11.5% of their offensive plays. On the defensive end, the Magic are a top 10 team. They allow 109.3 points per 100 possessions (10th best mark in the NBA). Orlando excels at limiting their opponents' ability to get to the free throw line, ranking 4th in free throw attempts allowed per 100 possessions (19.9). They also rank 5th in defensive rebound percentage. Unlike New Orleans (who plays at the 2nd fastest place in the NBA), the Magic rank 24th in pace. The Magic are a team based on limiting offensive mistakes, playing fundamental defense, and slowing down the tempo.
What's The Motivation?
One thing that makes betting on this game tricky is the lack of clarity surrounding who is going to play. Neither team has anything to play for in this matchup. New Orleans was eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to San Antonio on Sunday. Orlando has clinched the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference and is locked in to an upcoming matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the postseason. So which players will play? We may have some clues based on their most recent outings. In Tuesday's loss against the Kings, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, and J.J. Redick combined for 0 minutes played for the Pelicans. Many of the guys who did play for New Orleans are far from household names among NBA fans. Orlando's most recent game, a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, told a similar story. The Magic played without Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, and Michael Carter Williams. Nikola Vucevic, D.J. Augustin, and Markelle Fultz played, but only saw 21-22 minutes on the floor. It is likely that we will see more of the same from both teams in Thursday's meeting.