Apparently, the Pelicans are still in the business of winning games after their miraculous (?) come from behind win against the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. Being a fan gets dicey this time of year. Your natural instinct is to do whatever it takes to "support the team" and ooze out a victory at all costs. Yet, there is another side of you that gets distracted with the possibility of a shiny new toy (or toys) that may be coming to New Orleans in June.
Do you pretend to be jazzed about Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis overcoming a double digit deficit against the sad sack Kings in order to squeeze out a meaningless victory? Is it wrong to wish that the Pelicans lost that game and every game going forward in order to enhance their draft lottery status? These are some of the most grueling questions of NBA fandom and the ultimate sign that the dog days of March are upon us.
As loyal fans everywhere tangle with their intentions, the Pelicans will take the court in Charlotte against the red hot Hornets on Wednesday night. Charlotte has skyrocketed up the eastern conference standings as of late, running a sound offensive scheme with a heavy reliance on the simple principle of driving and kicking.
Most Hornet possessions lead with a sting (do not dismiss the pun) from a big man to jumpstart the whirling point guard duo of Kemba Walker or Jeremy Lin into the lane to either create for themselves or their teammates. Sink back and cut off the driving lane, and they will pull up for the open jumper. Over compensate for the flurry of shooters out on the perimeter (especially now with Courtney Lee involved), and both guards will kill you with an array of floaters, lay ins and scoops in the paint.
Nicolas Batum is also given free reign to run this seemingly simplistic offensive concept, utilizing his crafty skill set to bend defenses and facilitate or rain in holy jumpers from the perimeter. Batum has relished as both a scorer and ball handler this year under coach Steve Clifford, showcasing the tantalizing jack of all trades game we all salivated for while he was in Portland.
If the Pelicans want to continue their winnings ways, sniffing out any pick and roll involving Batum, Walker or Lin would be a phenomenal place to start. Charlotte essentially runs this action on most of their possessions:
Despite the vanilla scheme, contending with the spacing that this lineup presents is no easy bargain. There is nowhere to hide anyone and if rotations are not crisp, an open three is the most likely result.
Now, the reason why Charlotte is only a little above league average and not elite in points per possession (they are 12th) is because defenses can adjust to seeing the same thing over and over again. Watch what Norris Cole does differently when Batum and Kaminsky run the same action on the very next possession:
You know when you are playing your friend in NBA 2k and they do the exact same thing on offense every possesion? Eventually you are going to figure it out and try to jump your defender into the passing lane before your friend even makes the pass. You know exactly what they intend to do. Will you always steal the pass like you should? Of course not. This is 2k after all.
Essentially, the above scenario is what it is like to play against the Hornets. They are going to space you out and make you defend the same thing over and over. If they execute correctly, it is damn hard to stop. If the defense anticipates well and rotates on a string -- as they should -- then fast break opportunities will be there for the taking by way of turnovers.
At the end of the day, this game will be won or lost on how engaged New Orleans is on defense. Cheers to the die-hards out there that will be rooting for the W.
Don't ever change. It is scary on the other side.
What: Pelicans vs. Hornets
When: March 8th, 6:00 PM