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Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Kings

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Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings pay a visit to New Orleans arena Tuesday evening; however, don't be quick to dismiss them for their 14-25 record. Since our 3-point victory right before Christmas, they've gone 6-6 including wins over the Heat, Rockets, Timberwolves and Trail Blazers. During the same stretch, the Pelicans are 3-10 and this time around, we go into battle without Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday.

In the preview close to a month ago now, the numbers told us to be very wary of our high-scoring opponent. Just substituting a single player off their starting five showed extreme volatility in the advanced numbers. Well, head coach Mike Malone has decided to go with one of these tweaks as his new starting lineup and it's worked. The combination of Thomas-Thornton-Gay-Thompson-Cousins has a net rating of +12.4 (that's ORTG (107.9) minus DRTG (95.5)). And that's not from an insignificant sample size as this five-man group has played a total of 141 minutes.

Since the Pelicans narrow victory, their Big 3 have been on fire:

  • Rudy Gay - 21.2 PPG, 5.5 REB, 3.2 ASTS, 54.4 FG%, 91.8 FT% and close to 1 3/STL/BLK a game.
  • DeMarcus Cousins - 24.7 PPG, 13.8 REB, 2.3 ASTS, 47 FG%, 75 FG%, 1.8 STL, 1.2 BLK.
  • Isaiah Thomas - 21.0 PPG, 2.4 3PTM, 3.3 REB, 7.4 ASTS, 44.6 FG%, 86.8 FT%, 1.1 STL.
Plus, apparently, it hasn't mattered much that they've faced 4 of the top 6 shooting defenses (OKC, SAS, HOU and IND) during this 12 game stretch.

Without a doubt, it's going to be key for the Pelicans that they don't allow this triumvirate to run wild. During our December 23rd meeting, both Thomas and Cousins had good scoring games, but Cousins was quite inefficient missing 7 free throws. And certainly, one shouldn't expect Gay to shoot 2-12 from the field again with 6 turnovers.

A win Monday against the Grizzlies was unexpected, but we did match-up rather well on paper. Tuesday, we won't be as fortunate as the Kings will pose to be a much more athletic challenge. It will probably take another fantastic individual effort, similar to Tyreke Evans 25 point, 12 assist, 6 rebound line in our last meeting, to walk away with a win.

Geaux Pels!