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Game Preview: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Washington Wizards

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After dropping to .500 with a loss to Atlanta, can the Pelicans get a win in Washington against the Wizards? More importantly, can Monty Williams and the coaching staff get Anthony Davis some more shot attempts?

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The road trip continues. So far, the Pelicans sit at 0-1, thanks to last night's loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Not only was the 100-91 loss unsatisfying, but it came with similar results, as Anthony Davis finished with just 14 shot attempts after head coach Monty Williams said he wanted to get him more touches and shots the night before. David dispelled the narrative on how the Pelican guards don't pass him the ball, and even this game was a great example, but I still want to see more shots from Anthony Davis.

Or, at least make it a priority to get him some offense. I don't want any one player to be forced the ball all the time, and Davis is currently averaging 17.6 field goal attempts per game, 17.4 per 36, and 25.0 per 100 possessions, but in the flow of the game, I would like to see both Davis and the team make a bit more effort into getting him shots. There have been times where Davis can finish with what could be considered a "good" amount of shot attempts, and yet, you walk away wishing Davis took a few more shots.

So what am I asking for? A bit more assertion, if you will. Davis didn't have a great game for his standards against Atlanta, but it was frustrating to enter a game expecting a large amount of offense from Davis, watch him get the first two shot attempts for New Orleans, then see him finish with just 14 attempts on the night, with two attempts in the fourth. Davis was sick, so that was could be the reason for playing just five minutes. For me, I want to see how Williams gets Davis shots in the fourth quarter, especially in close games.

Now, we head on to Washington. The Washington Wizards are quietly enjoying success this season, currently leading the Southeast division with a 9-5 record. John Wall headlines Washington's roster as their franchise player and maestro of their offense. The return of guard Bradley Beal gives them another two-way wing that allows them to solidify their guard rotation. Paul Pierce and Otto Porter work the small forward position, while Nene (who may be out) and Marcin Gortat form one of the more underrated power forward-center duos in the league. In terms of roster construction, it's an admirable team.

After a month into the season, it appears that Chicago, Toronto, and still, Cleveland headline the potential title teams in the East, but Washington is the best of that second group that includes...*takes a peak at the East*...Miami and Atlanta? Sure, let's go with that.

Also, Tom Ziller wrote a great story about realignment and ending conferences in the NBA. It dives into the imbalance between the Eastern and Western Conference. I liked it. Check it out.

Stats of Note

Even with Wall being one of the best in the league at creating corner threes, the Wizards are in the bottom 10 in the league in offensive efficiency at 102.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com's stats site. The reason? The Wizards love to operate in the mid-range. Washington ranks third in the league in attempts from 10-14 feet, but they've been excellent at knocking them down, leading the league with 48% shooting from that area.

Along with their shooting numbers, the Wizards are a solid defensive team, ranking eight in the league in defensive efficiency. They can't protect the rim (allowing 52.4% at the rim this season), but they do a great job at forcing opponents to take three pointers, placing second in the league at 14.1 per game. John Wall and Bradley Beal are two solid perimeter defenders, creating a ton of disruption on the perimeter, and helping Washington force the sixth most turnovers in the league at 16.0 per game.

To see what our Wizards writers at SB Nation think about this matchup check out Bullets Forever

Keys To Victory

Stop Washington's Ball Movement: The Wizards are an excellent passing team, ranking first in the league in assist percentage (65.2%), third in assists per game (25.7 per game), and fifth in assist opportunities per game (46.3). Nene and Paul Pierce are averaging 2.5 and 2.6 assists respectively, and since his return, Bradley Beal has given Washington another passer in the starting lineup, averaging 3.2 per game.

However, the real key is stopping John Wall.

Currently, Wall is averaging 9.1 assists per game, but he's great at creating corner threes. Both Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple are shooting above league average (36% for Pierce, 34% from Temple) from three when receiving a pass from John Wall. He's also works well getting the ball to his big men, as both Nene and Marcin Gortat shoot 50% on two-point shots when receiving passes from Wall.

This is where Jrue Holiday comes into play. Monty Williams should stick Holiday on Wall, in effort to stifle Washington's offense at the top. Everyone can move the ball, but not everyone can create threes like Wall.

Be Aggressive: There aren't many holes in Washington's defense, but one area where the Pelicans can attack is using their wings to attack the rim and draw free throws. Currently, the Wizards are tenth in the league in opponent's free throws per game at 24.5 per game. New Orleans sits in the middle of the pack, averaging 23.3 free throws per game.

This is where Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers can come into play. Both Evans and Rivers can attack Washington at the rim, forcing Marcin Gortat to defend it, and as a result, getting him into foul trouble. Tyreke Evans is currently fifth in the league in drives, but shoots just 37.3% on them. Rivers, however, has 61 total drives this season, but shoots 55.6% on them. Add in Jrue Holiday's 83 total drives this season (56.1% shooting, too!), and New Orleans' guards should be aggressive in attacking Washington's big men, in hopes of drawing fouls.

Getting Anthony Davis More Shots Part Two: After the 14 shots against Atlanta, let's try to get Anthony Davis some more shots. If I'm Monty Williams, I would aim for 22 shots for Davis, as it would be one off of a season high for him. In mixing up shot attempts, New Orleans should try to vary between the pick and pop, catch and shoot jumpers from 10-15 feet, and even attempt some drives.

Working in reverse, the attacking of Washington's interior defense can also apply to AD. Davis has only 12 drives so far this season, but has shot 71.4% on them. Nene and Marcin Gortat aren't great defenders, and could be caught out of position on defense. Pulling Nene or Gortat away from the basket to guard Davis should result in Davis driving pass them and either finishing at the rim, or drawing a foul.

As for the catch and shoot, Davis ranks seventh in the league on catch and shoot field goal percentage (50.0%) among players with at least 4.0 attempts per game. Sometimes, the best offense is just allowing him to get open and launch a shot. Allowing Davis to get into his sweet spots on offense and getting him the ball to decide on either attacking the defense or simply going over them isn't the worst idea in the world.

Finally, the pick and roll. The objective is to use Evans or Holiday (Rivers isn't a good passer) to draw the defense in on drives, allowing Davis to have space for an easy jumper. When Davis gets over six feet of space on a two-point field goal, Davis has a field goal percentage of 52.0%. Getting those open shots in an area where Davis has improved should result in easy points.

Get it done, Monty. Let's go Pellies.

All stats are courtesy of NBA Stats

TV: Fox Sports New Orleans and NBA League Pass

Radio: WWL 1350AM

Time: 6:00 PM Central