The New Orleans Pelicans (10-8) look to extend their winning streak to three against the Phoenix Suns (7-12) this Friday, November 24. After back to back wins against The Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, the Pelicans look to be clicking right as their schedule takes a jaunt through the Western Conference. This game against Phoenix is circled on the calendar as a must win, as four of the Pelicans next five games will take place on the road.
The Suns have had an up and down season so far. After firing Head Coach Earl Watson three games in, Phoenix has done slightly better than expected. 7-12 is a far cry from where some analysts had them, namely as a team gunning for the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
Phoenix is led by a group of emerging young stars, none more impressive than Devin Booker. Booker is averaging over 23 points per game this year, and is doing so in a more efficient manner than ever before in his career, shooting 44% from the field and 37% from deep. T.J. Warren has also begun to step up for the Suns, averaging 18.7 PPG — a much higher mark than his career average.
While not being a top 10 team out West, Phoenix has still managed to eek out 107.8 PPG, a number good for twelfth in the league. How they achieve these points is somewhat of an anomaly, as they rank 29th in assists per game. This will be an important game for the Pelicans to practice their help defense, as the Suns don’t seem like the kind of team that will make you pay with fluid ball movement.
If last season is any indication of how this game will turn out, it is a must watch. The Pelicans went 3-1 in games against the Suns last season, with each game going down to the wire. Two of the four games went into overtime, and the point differential in all four games was nine points combined.
The Pelicans are coming off their best win of the year Wednesday night, handily beating the Spurs by 30 before the starters came out. Some issues the Pelicans had in their last game are habits to watch out for — namely, falling behind early. In both the Spurs and Thunder games, the Pelicans went down by double digits early in the first quarter. While they were able to come back in those games, it is not a trend any team should make a habit.
Keys To Victory
Dominating the defensive boards: The Suns are 10th in the league in offensive rebounding percentage, and average nearly 116 points in their wins. This is a team that can shoot the lights out on occasion, giving them second and third chances is a quick way to lose in Phoenix. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins should concern themselves with gathering all Suns misses than leaking out in transition.
Keeping turnovers to a minimum: If the Pelicans win the turnover battle, they will win this game. New Orleans has struggled with turnovers mightily this season, but the Spurs game is a prime example of what this team can be like if they cut down on them. The Suns are a team that likes to get out in transition — nothing helps teams score fast break points more than turnovers.
Get Darius Miller hot: When you’re hot, you’re hot! Darius Miller has been lighting it up from deep over the last ten games. He is shooting almost 50% from three this season, and that’s after an incredibly sluggish start. Keep feeding him the ball so that his confidence stays high!
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
When: November 24, 2017, 8:00 PM Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM