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Pelicans vs Heat preview: New Orleans gets a turn against the Miami superstar-less squad

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Can Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday get by Hassan Whiteside?

NBA: Miami Heat at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Around this time a year ago, a Pelicans-Heat matchup made it on the NBA’s vaunted Christmas Day schedule. New Orleans had some of that “new exciting playoff team from last year” smell to them and Miami, led by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, was pegged as an early season contender to challenge Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.

Fast forward a year later and life comes at you fast. The two teams were both 11 games under .500 entering Thursday’s slate of games, with New Orleans sitting at 10-21 and Miami a game behind at 9-20. New Orleans isn’t thought of as a team on the rise in the West anymore and Miami’s keeping the Pelicans’ company in the tank now with Wade no longer on the roster and Bosh’s professional future questionable due to health concerns.

What I’m saying is a year can make quite a difference. This game last year was an intriguing cross-conference battle deserving of being played on one of the league’s most signature days. Fast forward to today and...yeah.

The Heat snapped a three game losing streak Thursday night against the Lakers thanks to erasing a 19-point Los Angeles lead. Miami’s played four sets of back-to-backs this season and have yet to win the second game. Folks, you just can’t find analysis like this anywhere else.

Miami’s led by Goran Dragic and his 19 points and 6 assist average. Dragic is also shooting 45 percent from the floor, 41 percent from three and 80 percent from the free throw line. How much longer he’ll be leading the Heat is another issue, though, as Chris Mannix is reporting that Dragic is open to a trade and Miami’s working on obliging the request.

If Dragic is an iffy at best piece for Miami’s core moving forward, no such worries surround Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson. Despite their porous record, Whiteside has been a beast again in the post and leads the league in rebounds (14.8 per game) and is fourth in blocks (2.4 a game). An Anthony Davis vs. Hassan Whiteside matchup is a wet dream for fans of young, great big men. Hopefully Davis and maybe a little Terrence Jones every now and then are tasked with checking Whiteside because Omer Asik’s bound to get worked by him.

For Winslow, the light hasn’t come on just yet for the second-year wing but his potential remains tantalizing. Winslow’s sixth on the team in scoring and his shooting numbers are cringeworthy: 35 percent from the floor, 23 from three and 62 from the free throw line.

New Orleans may be 10-21 on the year, but, BUT!, they’re a cool 6-3 against the East and have won back-to-back against Eastern teams with wins over Indiana and Philadelphia. If New Orleans picks up another W tonight against the Heat — provided Luke Babbitt doesn’t decide to teach Dell Demps a lesson by going bonkers from beyond the arc — maybe we’ll finally see a legitimate plan for New Orleans to get back on track: changing conferences.