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Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Pacers

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It's probably too early to start talking about must-win games, but the Pacers matchup is important if the Pelicans want some momentum post the All-Star break.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers come into town Wednesday and by the end of the day, the Pelicans will sit either 3 games over .500 or a mere 1 in the standings. Considering New Orleans is currently 1.5 games behind the Suns for the final playoff spot and the Oklahoma City Thunder are coming on strong with wins in 4 of their last 5, the final game before the All-Star break is a big one.

Forget Records

At first glance, a 20-33 opponent doesn't sound all that threatening. However, looking deeper, they've won 3 of their past 4 (DET, CLE, CHA) with the only blemish coming last night in the final seconds against the Spurs. The Pacers have been hit by a multitude of injuries all season, but outside of Paul George, they're finally relatively healthy now. According to InStreeClothes last week, no team had lost more games to injury in 2014-15.

So, as luck would have it, the Pelicans face them now, especially since it's looking likely New Orleans will be without three of their best players.

3 Keys to Victory

Avoid Bad Lulls - Missing a string of shots is one thing, turning it over 5 consecutive times is another. Most certainly, it gives the opponent fantastic opportunities for easy scores amid the chaos on the floor. Against Utah, the Pelicans had a 64-50 lead in the 3rd quarter. Once the turnovers began, the Pelicans were outscored 21-3 for the rest of the frame. The Pelicans absolutely MUST be more judicious with the ball.

Excellent Starting Guard Play - If Anthony Davis is sidelined, the Pelicans are going to need another statistically huge game from their starting backcourt. Despite all the errors, the Pelicans had a chance to beat the Jazz in the final minutes because Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans combined for 49 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds and 9 threes. A similar performance greatly improves the Pelicans odds of success.

Defense - For February, the Pacers have posted the 2nd best FG% and 3FG% in the NBA. They are averaging 103.3 points, nearly 8 points more than their season average. They're not only healthy, but they're rather hot. If the Pelicans have any hopes of notching the win, they will need to come up big on their weaker side of the court. One can expect Omer Asik to show up, but will the rest of the Pelicans follow suit? They'll need to stick with all of the Pacers shooters to avoid another Steve Novak type of episode. They'll need to dominate the boards unlike against the Jazz where they gave up 21 OREB and 30 second chance points. They need to show up for 48 minutes. Period.