The Pelicans hit the road for the first time this season, heading to Orlando to face a Magic team that they faced twice in the preseason. The tip-off will be a little after 6:00 CT and should be televised on FSNO. Expect the same starting lineup for the Pelicans as you saw in the last game, and Ryan Anderson and Darius Miller should be the two Pelicans with clipped wings this evening (I'm just starting to work on my Pelicans puns - bear with me).
The matchup down low will be the area of biggest concern for the Pelicans, given Anderson's injury and everybody else's complete lack of talent. Nikola Vucevic is an excellent post player and almost certainly the most skilled of all the players on Orlando's roster. Jason Smith will have to draw the opening assignment against him and must keep his foul problems in check. Thankfully, Vucevic isn't one to generate contact - he averaged less than 2 free throws attempted per game last year. As a result, I don't anticipate us having the same problems down low that we did against the Pacers - Smith should play around 30 minutes and Stiemsma and Onuaku should hopefully play less than 20 minutes combined.
Anthony Davis had a field day his first two times playing the Magic, scoring 29 the first time and 9 the second time on only three field goal attempts in limited minutes. He presents a huge matchup problem for the Magic, who are limited in post defenders - Jason Maxiell has been starting for them at power forward, but look for Andrew Nicholson to get some substantial minutes, since he's been on fire in their first two games (and Maxiell has been hapless). Look for the Pelicans to get the ball in Davis's hands early and often, likely with pick-and-rolls with Holiday to force the Magic defense to try to corral two athletes.
In the backcourt, the Magic like to go small, playing Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, and Arron Afflalo together quite a bit. That should play right into Monty's hands, who can trot out the superior three-guard lineup of Evans, Holiday, and Gordon. With Nelson and Afflalo a bit defensively challenged, we could see the Pelicans have a lot of open three-point attempts, as we did in the second preseason game when the Pelicans were able to slash into the lane at will and kick to wide-open shooters when their new backcourt trio was playing.
The game against the Pacers was one the Pelicans would like to pick up to make the playoffs, but it wasn't the kind of game they had to win. Games against the tanking teams of the East, though, are ones that the Pelicans need to feast on if they're hoping to get one of the last playoff spots.