New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry was very pleased with the effort on Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Anthony Davis finally showed that fire after devouring LaMarcus Aldridge in the fourth quarter and his teammates rode that energy to a convincing 104-90 victory. With a hole this deep at 2-11 the Pelicans cannot afford a lull in energy as the Phoenix Suns come to visit the Crescent City.
Last season these Pelicans were excellent at home, posting a 28-13 record. So far this season they are just 2-4 and have a pair of "bad" losses against the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets. Defending the Blender, where just two of their next six games occur, is critical to clawing back into relevance.
Phoenix is no push over and it will take another solid effort to get a win streak started. Brandon Knight has been a man possessed, scoring 30+ in three of his last five games to go with a triple-double against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. Finding a way to contain both Knight and his partner Eric Bledsoe is going to play a large part in the Pelicans chances at victory. Can Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Ish Smith, and Toney Douglas make life difficult on both Knight and Bledsoe? I have serious concerns on that front.
Keys to Victory
Play those passing lanes: Phoenix is willing to turn the ball over, committing turnovers on over 16% of their possessions (6th worst in the NBA). Both Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe average over three turnovers a game and sustain assist-to-turnover ratios under two. Easy baskets are going to be important to get the Pelicans on track, take advantage.
Defend the 3-point line: The Suns are shooting a torrid 40.6% on above the break threes so far this season. Knight, Bledsoe, Jon Leuer, and Mirza Teletovic are all dangerous behind the arc in this young season. Conversely the Pelicans are absolutely terrible defending above the break, allowing opponents to shoot 43.4%. No team is even in the vicinity of that performance defensively.
Engaged AD please: On Friday night a fire was lit in the Pelicans superstar. The prospect of playing against both Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, players who routinely pull the best out of AD, helped considerably. While Davis was not terribly efficient on offense he found ways to impact the game and was a monster on the defensive glass, collecting 18 total rebounds, 16 on the defensive end alone. That kind of aggressiveness on the glass allows Alvin Gentry to go small more, opening up things on the offensive end. Keeping Tyson Chandler off the glass, especially on offense, is a chore for all five Pelicans on the floor.
Move the ball: Ish Smith and Jrue Holiday had the Pelican offense looking like a different beast against the Spurs. The ball movement early in the shot clock, along with players avoiding watching one player go to work, did wonders for the team's flow throughout the game. It comes as no surprise that New Orleans had 326 passes and 26 assists on 40 made field goals against San Antonio.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Phoenix Suns
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: November 22nd, 5:00 PM
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM (Radio)
Enemy Data: Bright Side of the Sun