On Tuesday night, the New Orleans Pelicans will play their fourth game of the regular season when the Orlando Magic come to the Smoothie King Center. New Orleans enters the game winless after dropping their first three games of the 2015-16 campaign.
The Magic have also lost their first three games with two of their losses coming at home; however, they have been extremely competitive against teams that are predicted to finish at the top of each conference. For instance, the Magic took the Oklahoma City Thunder into double-overtime but eventually lost 139-136. New head coach Scott Skiles has brought a tough mindset to the team and although the Magic are not blowing the league away on either side of the ball (14th in defense and 23rd in offense), they have lost by margins of 1, 3 and 5 to superior opponents on paper.
Last year, the Pelicans and Magic split their season series 1-1, each winning their home games in the process.
While Pelicans fans (heck even the players themselves) will be grateful they do not have to face a player with the ability of Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vuceic and the rest of the youthful roster should not be overlooked. Skiles has a tendency of squeezing the most out of rosters during the first few years of a tenure.
Three keys to victory
- The Magic have not been a particularly good shooting team so far this season, which is not surprising with Elfrid Payton and Oladipo in the starting backcourt. A point of emphasis for the Pelicans and their staff should be to force the Magic to shoot from the outside (only one of their starters are over 30% from three-point range) and prevent easy attempts at the rim. Transition defense will be a must!
- The Pelicans will have a substantial amount of pressure on them to win this game because of the rough start to the season. They will need Anthony Davis to help relax the players and fans immediately after tip-off. Look for him to help everyone grab an early seat and attempt to dominate the game, but his defense on Tobias Harris may be most important. Just as the Indiana Pacers moved their small forward, Paul George, to power forward so too have the Magic with Harris. If Davis can overshadow his matchup, it'll go a long way for New Orleans to break into the win column.
- Omer Asik missed practice on Sunday and Monday and is listed as questionable. If he is unavailable, Alexis Ajinca will likely draw the start. However, it'll be important for the Ryan Anderson-Davis duo to control the boards as they will see the lion share of minutes. Vucevic is fantastic on the boards and the Magic are one of the best offensive rebounding teams to start the season. Minimizing second chance points will be crucial.
A team like the Magic will not shoot the Pelicans out of the building a la the Warriors (or the Blazers to a lesser extent). What the Magic can do is make easy shots and capitalize off of turnovers. If New Orleans can prevent easy shots at the rim, limit second opportunities for the Magic and keep their turnovers low, the Pelicans should be able to secure their first win of the season.