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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans hope to make amends for recent loss to Toronto Raptors

DeMarcus Cousins is probably eager to compensate for his inefficient ways last Thursday.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (8-6) welcome the Toronto Raptors (8-5) on Wednesday night inside the Smoothie King Center for a 7:00 pm tip. If you can’t be part of the fun in person, be sure to catch the game on Fox Sports New Orleans or listen in on WRNO 99.5 FM.

These two teams squared off less than a week ago in Toronto, with the Raptors narrowly edging out the Pelicans 122-118. New Orleans, though, could have very easily walked away the winners had they executed a bit better on both sides of the ball down the stretch.

Although they combined for 39 points, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins would be the first ones to tell you they could have played better. Missing 24 of 38 field goals, 11 of 14 threes and five of 12 free throw attempts, the All-NBA duo lacked their typical crisp shooting touch. This was made even more disheartening by the fact that all of the surrounding role players contributed efficiently, with Jrue Holiday posting season-highs in points (34) and assists (11).

Nevertheless, the Pelicans have sandwiched a bunch of wins around the Raptors loss, winning five of their last six games. As for Toronto, they have fared nearly as well within the same time frame, adding four wins to their record.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Wednesday’s contest, there is a key difference between the two teams: the amount of rest. While New Orleans hasn’t played since Monday’s win against the Hawks, the Raptors will be on the second night of a back-to-back after facing the Rockets last night in Houston. Although they knocked off James Harden’s group, Toronto is in the midst of their first back-to-back series of the season. As we witnessed with the Pelicans in Chicago during their first back-to-back on the schedule, there’s a good chance for jelly legs and wayward shots to make an expected appearance.

Three Keys to Victory

Defend the three-point line. Over their last four games, the Raptors have been smoking hot from deep, sinking 43.8% of their 30.3 three-point attempts. That makes for a scary proposition as the Pelicans defense has recently allowed opponents to average 32 shot attempts from the same area, where they’ve knocked down 40.6% of those looks.

Make life hard on DeMar DeRozan. Derozan will get his, but when he’s found scoring more difficult, the Raptors aren’t as likely to walk away with victory. In their losses, he is averaging three free attempts less a game and shooting 42.9% from the floor and an anemic 20.0% from three-point range.

Avoid careless turnovers! With the role players confidence growing by the game, the Pelicans offense should have no issues putting up points, yet limiting the hiccups could be the difference in the outcome. Having Rajon Rondo for a longer stretch, about 14-16 minutes, will help, but to beat one of the better teams in the league, the entire roster needs to be more precise. No more risky long passes over defenses or attempting to squeeze a dime through the smallest of windows. A little more vanilla should be the goal until opponent points off turnovers stops being such a major disadvantage.

Geaux Pelicans!

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Toronto Raptors

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: November 15, 2017, 7:00 PM Central

How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM