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Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Suns

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The march to the postseason starts with a showdown against the Phoenix Suns.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans have split the season series with the Suns, with each team winning at home. Hopefully, that trend will continue when the teams face off Friday at the Smoothie King Center.

When the Pelicans beat them at home, they had the services of everyone but Eric Gordon. In the most recent loss, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis were all sidelined.

Setting Sun

A little more than two weeks ago, the Suns were ahead of the Pelicans in the standings. However, since a win against the Mavericks on March 22nd, Phoenix has proceeded to lose 7 of their next 8 games and have all but eliminated themselves for a chance at the postseason.

Although they're down and out, they would probably enjoy nothing more than to play spoiler in New Orleans' plans. You know what they say about wounded animals.

During their swoon, nobody has struggled more than Eric Bledsoe. In his last 7 games, he is just averaging 13.9 points, .6 threes, 2.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists and .6 steals. He has shot 39.3% from the field, 20.0% from three-point territory and 79.3% from the foul line.

Both Alex Len and Brandon Knight have been out for over a week and are not expected to play for the rest of the season.

3 Keys to Victory

  1. Nothing easy. In case you were able to burn the memory out of your brains, the last meeting between these two teams resulted in a 74-72 loss. During the Suns' slide down the standings, this once high-scoring offense has had trouble accumulating points against everyone in the league. In their last 8 games, they've averaged the 2nd lowest number of points per game (91.1). As a team, they've combined for a 42.4 FG%, a 26.1 3FG% and a 73.8 FT%. Consequently, the Pelicans can't make it easy for the Suns with an inordinate amount of fast break points, points off of turnovers and easy points in the paint.
  2. Reclaim the advantage on the glass. The Pelicans have not been getting the job done in the defensive rebounding category. In their last 8 games, they've had the 25th lowest DREB%. Fortunately for New Orleans, the Suns haven't been any good neither. Let's hold them to one shot and collect our fair share of offensive rebounds.
  3. Dominate Markieff. Markieff Morris has had a fine breakout season for the Suns. In their last 8 games, he's probably been their most consistent weapon (15 PPG, 7.6 REB, 3.1 AST). However, he's nowhere near the level of Anthony Davis; thus, New Orleans' superstar has to make his presence felt on both ends of the floor against his counterpart. 4 games left AD, play like the rabid dog that Monty Williams is begging for.

During the beat down to the Grizzlies, I distinctly remember Jennifer Hale reporting that the team didn't seem to be getting too down by the result on Wednesday. Indeed, the camera highlighted a discussion between Davis and Evans as they seemed to be talking instead of hanging their heads.

If the team chemistry is as good as everyone close to the team is saying it is, the Pelicans need to rely on it and come together to get this first game of the remaining schedule. With an identical record to the Thunder, but an obviously more difficult schedule, New Orleans can no longer afford to lose winnable games.

Geaux Pelicans!

What: Pelicans vs. Suns

Where: The Smoothie King Center

When: April 10th, 7:00 PM

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass