The New Orleans Pelicans (19-28) host the Washington Wizards (26-20) on Sunday evening at 5PM CST. The game will be featured on Fox Sports New Orleans, CSN Mid-Atlantic and NBAtv, for all those outside of the New Orleans/Washington D.C. area, or over the airwaves on WRNO 99.5FM.
Let’s start with the obvious: It’s been a maddening home stand for the Pelicans.
The Pelicans have been nothing short of inconsistent and frustrating, especially during this 6-game home stand. An impressive victory seems to always be followed by a disappointing defeat.
The Pels came back to win a close one versus the Cavaliers, sans Anthony Davis. Of course, they struggled next against the Thunder, with AD (although injured), which, despite the big run they made late in the game, ultimately led to the loss — a mirror image of the game they had against the Cavaliers but the Pelicans were the ones with the early big lead.
And now, they won by 16 points against arguably the 2nd best team in the league. After trailing big in the 1st half, they rode a big 2nd half to decisively smash the Spurs, 119-106.
Now, as their homestand comes to an end, what can we expect from these Pelicans?
Although that’s somewhat of a problem, here are a few things to watch for.
I’ve decided to make injury reports, a regular part of any pre-game article I have because, c’mon, we’re talking about the Pels here. Luckily, the Pels have returned to the usual “clean” bill of health:
#Pelicans Injury Report - 1/29 vs. WAS— Pelicans PR (@PelicansPR) January 29, 2017
OUT: Quincy Pondexter (left knee)
But a lot of us are still worried about AD’s health. Despite playing in 33:22 minutes vs the Spurs, and finishing with 21 points and 22 rebounds, AD didn’t look aggressive. This could partly be because Jrue Holiday is on some mean streak, but it could also mean AD’s not really close to 100, even 90%. Remember: This was the guy who’s left, or did not play, in 3 of his team’s last 4 games thanks to the same injury (a quad contusion). So call us concerned for his health, despite playing in his last game.
Wizards on the run
The Wizards have had a solid start to 2017. After beginning the new year with 2 losses, dropping them to a lowly 16-18 and just outside the playoff conversation, they’ve strung together an impressive set of games. They’ve won 10 of their last 12 games, half of them on the road, to own what is now suddenly the 5th best record in the East, and within half a game of a Top 4 seed. That’s an impressive turnaround. A big part of that is John Wall, who’s finally 100 percent healthy. He’s posting career highs in points, steals, true shooting percentage and PER.
Along with the improvement of 3rd year player, Otto Porter, who’s quietly putting up a 14-6-2 line on amazing percentages (54/47/78), and Bradley Beal, who’s finally healthy (who knew health played a big role in a player’s productivity?), and is averaging Klay Thompson-esque 23 points, while making 38 percent of his 7.5 3PT attempts per game.
It’s going to be a tough game for the Pels, consistency issues aside.
Jekyll or Hyde?
Which team are we getting? The one that beat Orlando, Cleveland and San Antonio? Or the one that lost to Brooklyn and Oklahoma?
The biggest thing, IMO, will be the offense, as it’s always been for the Pels. The defense has remained relatively consistent this seasons, consistently ranking in the top half, even on their worst nights. But it’s the offense, where the Pels get their wins. In the month of January, the Pels have the same DRTG in wins and losses (~104) but their offense goes from around 118 in wins, to around 95 in losses.
The biggest difference?
The team’s shooting. New Orleans shoots 39 percent from downtown, on more attempts, in wins vs 33 percent in losses. That’s about a 9~10 point swing, which is more than 50 percent of the difference in the ORTG. It sounds simple but it’s cruel in it’s simplicity: if the Pels hit their treys, odds are their defense will take care of the rest and they win. If they can’t, their offense will drag a solid defense to a loss.