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NBA preview: Buddy Hield and Jrue Holiday hope to get back on track against the Pacers

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Can the New Orleans Pelicans finish off the road trip with an important victory?

NBA: Indiana Pacers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (16-25) will face the Indiana Pacers (20-19) on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with a scheduled tipoff at 3:00pm CST inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The game will air on Fox Sports New Orleans and Fox Sports Indiana, as well as WRNO 99.5FM.

The Pelicans fell to the Chicago Bulls by a 107-99 margin on Saturday because of an inability to consistently limit the opponent to a single shot with each possession. For the season, the Pelicans have done a decent job of not allowing an overabundance of offensive rebounds (11th); however, it’s been a different story since exclusively switching to a small ball strategy (24th).

Fortunately for New Orleans, Indiana does not place a premium on crashing the glass. Neither do they score much in transition, launch three-point shots or get inside the restricted area. Instead, their calling card is — someone please restrain Doug Collins — the midrange shot!

From both the non-restricted zone and the midrange area, the Pacers reside in the top 5 of the league in attempts. Thanks to Myles Turner, Paul George and Jeff Teague, though, they are one of the more proficient teams from the dead zone. Indiana loves to seek out these shots from off screens when either the ball-handler pulls up or hits the screener on the pick-and-pop.

After the Terrence-Jones-alongside-Anthony-Davis experiment failed in Chicago, I’m expecting for Alvin Gentry to reinsert Dante Cunningham back into the starting lineup. It particularly makes sense considering Thaddeus Young is Indiana’s power forward and the Pacers rely on speed rather than strength in the frontcourt.

A win tomorrow and this 5-game road trip will be considered a success; conversely, a loss may inspire fans to break out surrender-the-season white flags again.

Things to Watch

Pelicans Backcourt. Jrue Holiday and Buddy Hield were a bust against the Bulls, but the tandem came up huge when the Pelicans snapped a 10-game losing streak last month against the Pacers. Can they come close to combining for 37 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds and 5 threes again?

Living at the line. The Indiana Pacers are a very good team at home (+5.4 net rating); however, there exists a common theme in their five losses: a high number of free throw attempts by the opponent. Incidentally, when the Pelicans beat them on December 15th, they had 28 trips to the line — New Orleans’ 6th highest mark of the season. It would help immensely for Davis to force the issue to the rim numerous times and Tyreke Evans wreak havoc.

The three ball. In their 6 road wins, the Pelicans averaged almost 3 more attempts from three-point territory and knocked them down at a 41.6% clip (versus 33.0% in losses). You know who’s due? Langston Galloway. Although he’s remained in the limelight for the All-Star Three Point Shootout, he’s only converted 32.0% of his bombs here in January. During the last 6 games, he’s scored in double figures and made more than a pair of triples just once.

Geaux Pelicans!