The Pelicans return home to the Smoothie King Center after an unsuccessful journey to California. The three game trip out west ended with a 1-2 record with losses coming to both Los Angeles teams and the lone win being over Sacramento. The loss to the Lakers was the low point of a four game losing streak, and I was responsible for previewing and recapping all four games. I feel like that means something. The way I see it there are pros and cons to me covering Pelican games this year: the con is that the more games I cover, the more they lose. The pro is that the more games I cover the more they lose but the closer they get to winning the Ben Simmons Sweepstakes. You're welcome.
So who do the Pelicans welcome next on their #Lousy4TheAussie tour? Charlotte! The Hornets have had a rough start to the calendar year. After sitting as high as the No. 2 seed in the East and an 17-13 start, the Hornets dropped seven straight games, knocking them all the way down to the 12th spot in the conference. Part of the recent downtrend is owed to Al Jefferson having surgery on his right knee December 30th, the same day the seven-game losing streak started, and Jefferson was expected to miss six weeks. Charlotte's come in 21st in scoring and 18th in rebounding since Big Al went down. Defensively the Hornets are giving up the 22nd most points a game since Jefferson's surgery; they were 12th in that department prior the injury.
Jefferson's surgery couldn't have come for a worse time for Charlotte. Five of the seven games came on the road and six were against the West. Charlotte lost to the Clippers twice, Golden State, Oklahoma City, and Denver on the second night of a back-to-back, and we all know just how tricky Denver can be to play at. So I'm wondering how much of this poor play stretch is owed to Jefferson's injury and the rigors of the schedule. I mean Jefferson's not having a career year by any means: he's averaging 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds this season but 17 points and 9 rebounds over the course of his nine-year career.
I've got a good feeling about tonight's game. New Orleans finally has some positive momentum going for them and they're returning to the friendly confines of the Smoothie King Center. Anthony Davis made his triumphant return to the court Wednesday night after missing both games in Los Angeles with a back bruise and had a very Anthony Davis-y night: 24 points (8 of 23 though yikes), 10 rebounds and 3 assists in 37 minutes. Plus Charlotte is a struggling road team: they're 4-13 away from the Hive (is that what they call it?). Then again the Lakers had only won four of their previous home games before the Pelicans paid them a visit and we all know how that worked out...
Keys to Victory
1. Own the Glass- As mentioned above, Charlotte's 18th in the league in rebounding since Jefferson's surgery December 30. New Orleans is 3rd. With Anthony Davis back, he and Omer Asik should be able to continue that trend and dominate in the rebounding department.
2. Three Point Shooting- Charlotte's not a great three point team. They're 18th in the league in that department (then again New Orleans is all of one spot ahead of them WELP). Troy Daniels is the only Hornet shooting better than 40 percent from three but he's only attempted 31 threes all season long. None of Charlotte's main contributors are legitimate three point threats. If you guys need a stretch four or a two guard, I hear New Orleans could be looking for a trade partner.
3. Limit Free Throws- Getting to the line is a big part of Charlotte's offense. The Hornets are a top-10 team in both free throw attempts (23.9) and free throw percentage (78.4). On the road Charlotte averages about four fewer shots from the free throw line. Want to beat the Hornets? Start by keeping Kemba Walker and company off the line.