If not now, when? The New Orleans Pelicans come back into town after an encouraging effort against the San Antonio Spurs that ultimately resulted in defeat. Not unlike their recent contests against the Memphis Grizzlies (twice) or Houston Rockets. This team can hang with a superior squad for three or even three and a half quarters before the limitations of this roster begin to show. Thankfully, tonight they play what should be an over-matched opponent in the Los Angeles Lakers.
Should be over-matched. Of course, that did not matter just three weeks ago when the Pelicans went into the Staples Center only to leave with a dispiriting loss and another tongue lashing from head coach Alvin Gentry. Anthony Davis missed the game but Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Omer Asik were all available.
Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson took up residence at the foul line, going 17-19 combined to lead the Lakers in scoring. The Pelicans finishing lineup was a complete and utter disaster with Alonzo Gee and Ryan Anderson as the biggest players on the floor for New Orleans. Unsurprisingly the Lakers feasted at the rim and on offensive rebounds.
This game will be nationally televised on TNT and will tip-off some time after 8:30 PM local time. Three Mardi Gras parades will be rolling through the city on Thursday; Knights of Babylon (which I had the pleasure of riding in with the Navy Band, it is glorious), Knights of Chaos, and the Krewe of Muses. Getting to the arena is going to be a traffic disaster. Muses usually hits the CBD area around 8:00 PM. I would not be surprised if the Smoothie King Center is nearly empty. The Pelicans holding home games between the Wednesday before Mardi Gras Day (Krewes of Druids and Nyx) until Mardi Gras itself is completely foolish.
Keys to Victory
Finish strong: Each of the Pelicans last five losses came in the fourth quarter of largely competitive games, including their loss to these Lakers. Offensively the Pelicans have struggled to create good offense when teams can put an elite perimeter defender (Kawhi Leonard last night, Tony Allen for the Grizzlies) on Jrue Holiday and force others to create. New Orleans has just one real shot creator on the court in the fourth quarter and it shows with the heavy lifting asked of Jrue Holiday alone.
Keep your hands to yourselves: Just stop fouling Lou Williams. Stop. His entire game is built on deception and getting to the line. If he hits well-defended long twos live with the results. Don't try to block every shot attempt, that's exactly what he wants.
Stay hot at home: New Orleans is shooting 40% behind the arc at home over their last ten home games. Toney Douglas (52.6%), Ryan Anderson (44.3%), Bryce Dejean-Jones (42.9%), and even Norris Cole (40.9%) have all been incredibly effective. Jrue Holiday has averaged 12.3 potential assists against just two turnovers a game. Beautiful numbers on offense all around. Keep that up and bury the Lakers.
What: Pelicans vs. Lakers
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: February 4th, 8:30 PM
How: TNT, 99.5 FM WRNO