The first week of April arrives and the New Orleans Pelicans are still playing games that matter. Not just for lottery picks and ping pong balls, but playoff hopes. The task ahead is still daunting, one made more difficult by any number of defeats at the hands of lesser competition. While those weigh on the task ahead the failures of yesterday cannot be allowed to obscure the goal at hand. Win today.
The Pelicans cannot win three straight games against the Sacramento Kings, and they certainly cannot deal the Oklahoma City Thunder a defeat so sorely needed. What they can accomplish is to defeat the opponent in front of them right now. Despite what records may say, that has not come easily for this team. George Karl's team is not likely to lay down, not with DeMarcus Cousins still roaming the court.
Could the Kings rest Cousins? Sure. Would it be a good idea to rest your star player in front of your home fans on a Friday night? Absolutely not. Boogie is going to play tonight unless he is unable. No strategic tanking is going to take place. There are few players capable of dragging a team to victory regardless of teammates or the opponent. DeMarcus Cousins is one of those players.
Keys to Victory
Make Cousins Work Alone: Yes Cousins can beat the Pelicans, but it will not be single handedly. As the Pels approached Boogie-Zilla last Friday should be the game plan again. Let him get his, especially if he is hitting 20 foot jump shots. Box out, don't double, and let Omer Asik force Cousins into less efficient choices. Live with the results.
Stop Something: The perimeter defense was not much more than a functioning turnstile in the first quarter against the Lakers on Wednesday night. A guard gets beat, Asik rotates over to stop penetration, pass, layup. Rinse and repeat. New Orleans must create a credible defense against penetration and "help the helper" in order to clean up these defensive deficiencies. Anthony Davis, normally a monster on the weakside, was consistently late or apathetic to rotating, choosing instead to treat Ryan Kelly as if he was Dirk Nowitzki. No, no, no.
Keep Shooting: Quincy Pondexter has become a man possessed. His normally quick release is now lightening fast and increasingly deadly. Ryan Anderson stepped right in and made his first two three point attempts, one from nearly 30 feet. Even Tyreke Evans got into the act in Los Angeles. The Pels are now 4th in the NBA in three point shooting, trailing only the Warriors, Hawks, and Clippers. Keep making those open threes.
Be a Superstar: Anthony Davis needs to dominate a game. Wednesday he looked, to use a LeBron James term, like he was in "chill mode" all night. Late on weakside rotations. Hunting assists. Passing out of isolation opportunities against Ryan Kelly of all defenders. If AD can help the Pels out to a big early lead and get he and his teammates some much needed rest on the front end of a critical back-to-back that would be tremendous.
What: Pelicans at Kings
Where: Sleep Train Arena
When: April 3rd, 9:00 PM
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass