There really is no rest for the weary Pelicans. New Orleans, fresh off a disheartening loss to Dallas' backups,host the Indiana Pacers, the current sixth seeded team in the Eastern Conference.
Wednesday night's no-show was an alarming performance. It's one thing to get beat, never mind getting beat by bench players and other reserves, but there's really no excuse for looking lethargic and uninterested. Maybe being a daunting 12 games under .500 is heavily weighing on their minds. Maybe they've resigned to the fact that, barring a Golden State-esque winstreak, they won't finish at much or better than 41-41. Not to sound accusatory but it looks like the Pelicans are playing like they know there's no incentive left for going after a loose ball or grabbing a rebound while an opposing team falls a sleep for a second too long. The body language is looking that poor. New Orleans looks like they're one extensive losing streak from pulling a Denver Nuggets and counting down the remainder of the rest of the season.
Like it or not, the Pelicans still have a little more than three months to go before the sweet freedom that is the offseason comes. Until then, hopefully they can muster up a sufficient amount of pride for tonight's matchup with Indiana.
The Pacers are back in the "Can this team dethrone Cleveland in the playoffs" conversation after being in the lottery this past season. One of the major factors for Indiana's resurgence is the much welcomed return of a fully healthy Paul George, who has put his extremely gruesome leg injury behind him. George's first season primarily playing the power forward is doubling as his best season as a professional. The two-time All-Star is putting up career bests in both scoring (24.6) and rebounding (7.7). George has also added a reliable three point shot to his arsenal and is again putting up a new career high in that category: 40.1 percent from three as a whole and 53.7 percent from the corner. George also changed his jersey number from 24 to 13 so the PG-13 nickname is born #blessed.
As a team Indiana is once again one of the better defensive units in the league. The Pacers are sixth in points allowed, 12th in opposing field goal percentage and fifth in three point percentage. Frank Vogel's guys execute defensively to a T.
Keys to Victory
1. Defend the Three Point Line- It feels like it's been decades since Roy Hibbert clogged up everything Indiana tried doing offensively but this is only year one post-Hibbert and the results are showing already. Indiana's offensive identity has changed dramatically and the team is now one of the best three point shooting teams in the league. While the Pacers don't attempt as many shots as you'd expect the fourth-ranked three-point percentage, they sure don't miss the few that they take.
2. Man-to-Man Defense- The Pacers are 24th in the league in assists a night. Monta Ellis leads the team with a shade under five a game and George is second with 3.9. These Indiana players are adept at creating for themselves, they don't need the ball delivered perfectly to them in order to get some buckets.
3. Anthony Davis- Here's hoping the challenge going up against Paul George lights more of a competitive fire in Anthony Davis. I'm not trying to bemoan the kid (and if he's older than me I can call him a kid because I sure as hell don't think of myself as a full grown adult yet), but his body language first and foremost has to change. Far too many people have noted entirely too often that Davis looks like he's sleepwalking defensively from time to time and he's not as assertive as some would hope offensively. Regardless of the result, I think tonight's game will give us a look into Davis' psyche. If he can't get up to play one of the best players both in the league and in his position then that's a bad sign for this team. But if he, Davis, can show a little fight maybe the hope that this bad situation will resolve itself will return.