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NBA Preview: Pelicans seek to protect home court against hapless Hawks

New Orleans tries for third win streak of the season.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a pleasant, albeit sloppy, win over the Los Angeles Clippers, the New Orleans Pelicans try to win consecutive games for the third time this young NBA season. Fortunately, New Orleans gets as sure of a bet as they’ll find on the schedule with the 2-11 Hawks making their one and only trip to the Smoothie King Center.

The Hawks have been a disaster this season. Co-owners of the worst record in basketball, Atlanta’s bringing up the rear in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta opened up the 2017-18 season with a win over the equally inept Mavericks, but lost 11 of their next 12 games, though they did mix in a surprise win over the Cavaliers, so shrug?

Injuries have decimated an already bad Hawks team, especially along the frontcourt. Ersan Ilyasova, Mike Muscala, Miles Plumlee and DeAndre' Bembry are all suffering a variety of injuries and it’s shown in the stat sheet: Atlanta ranks in the bottom five in rebounding and defensive rebounding, but it doesn’t stop there; Atlanta is also last in both rebounding and defensive rebounding percentage, and are a mere 24th in offensive percentage.

As bad as the Hawks have been, there have been a few bright spots. Dennis Schroder has upped his scoring to 20 points a game and is shooting a career best from both three (35 percent) and the free throw line (88 percent). Schroder’s also currently averaging career highs in both assists and rebounds. Rookie forward John Collins is averaging 10 and 7 in only 20 minutes of playing time coming off the bench. And second year small forward Taurean Prince has seen his minutes double and his scoring, rebounding, assists and steals have all followed suit.

One area New Orleans will have to be cautious off is Atlanta’s shooting from three. The Hawks rank in the bottom third in threes attempted, but they’re sixth in three point percentage. They don’t take many, but they hit on the few they attempt so New Orleans needs to be mindful of that.

Stop me if you’ve heard this of late: New Orleans needs to start taking better care of the basketball. The Pelicans rank 25th in the league in turnovers per game and had a season-high 23 on Saturday night against the Clippers. While it didn’t cost them the win, it kept a Clippers team that New Orleans largely dominated in the game. New Orleans can’t let a clearly inferior team hang around because of their carelessness with the ball — hey, the stars could stand to see some much needed rest!

It could be said basically of every game Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are both expected to play, but look for the twosome to totally dominate whatever scrubs Atlanta throws their way. As mentioned, the Hawks’ primary big men are all out for tonight’s game and I sincerely doubt Dewayne Dedmon and Collins can adequately counter the best big men tandem in basketball over a full complement of minutes. Yeah, expect another big night from Boogie and The Brow.

What to Watch For

  • Three Point Shooting - New Orleans doesn’t want to try and get into a three point contest with the Hawks because that’s a fight they’re not winning. In their two wins, Atlanta hit 42 percent of their threes and a large part of that success is due to a couple of familiar faces: Luke Babbitt and Marco Belinelli. Even in their losses, the Hawks shoot better from beyond the arc than the Pelicans do in the games they’ve won.
  • Keep Away - New Orleans is the unquestionably the better team, but weird things can happen any given night. I’d recommend New Orleans fully exploit their front court advantage and grab literally all the rebounds and keep the turnovers to a minimum. That onus lies on Jrue Holiday and DeMarcus Cousins — don’t give a bad team extra possessions.
  • Dominate Down Low - Sounds easy enough, right? Get the ball to Davis and Cousins and let them do their thing. Nobody else has what New Orleans has and Atlanta’s down far too many big men to even have a hope of containing the star tandem. Don’t overthink this one, guys.

Geaux Pelicans!

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Atlanta Hawks

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: November 13, 2017, 7:00 PM Central

How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM