The New Orleans Pelicans (0-4) are down to their last chance to notch a preseason victory, but tonight will mark their first opportunity to play within the friendly confines of the Smoothie King Center when they host the Toronto Raptors (3-1). Local tip-off time is set for 7:00 p.m. Central.
Up to this point, the Pelicans have looked more jagged during exhibition action than one would have hoped. New Orleans fell behind early in their 140-128 loss to the Miami Heat last night, and they never managed to threaten for the lead. Of course, it must be mentioned that three key starters didn’t appear (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore), and the those who did, failed to match the intensity of the Erik Spoelstra-led Heat. A lot of the ugliness evidenced can be washed away in the Pelicans final test before the regular season kicks off in six days.
The best thing going for New Orleans is that they are on track to start a campaign the healthiest in years. This fact cannot be overstated enough! Also, we must recognize they’ve failed to put their best foot forward — both in terms of the quality of the lineup and the corresponding effort levels as a whole. Prior to the matchup against the Heat, the Pelicans starters had played rather well, as evidenced by a positive Net Rating in the first halves over the first three contests. So, let’s hope the plan of going full squadron leaves a better taste in our mouths.
A few days ago, Alvin Gentry let it be known that he would play the regular season rotation against Toronto. While it’s unclear if Nikola Mirotic or Julius Randle will draw the start, it isn’t likely to matter much as they both should play comparable minutes. The biggest key will be if the team can play for the full 48 minutes, and show the unity and chemistry needed to even hope to have the chance to beat the Houston Rockets in the season opener next Wednesday.
Three things to watch
Rebound the basketball. The Pelicans sport a subpar 71.3 defensive rebound percentage and never was this more evident than against the Heat, who scored 30 second chance points. The Pelicans cannot force the action and push the pace if they’re constantly taking the ball out after made baskets!
Limit easy chances for the opponent. In addition to second chance points, opponents have averaged 28.3 points a game off turnovers and 64 points in the paint against New Orleans. That’s borderline criminal. Those numbers have to come down in a big way once the games start to count if the Pelicans hope to maintain serious playoff aspirations.
End of the regular rotation battle. Darius Miller has been much more effective than Solomon Hill thus far, but the battle for minutes behind Holiday, Payton and Moore has been much closer between Ian Clark, Frank Jackson and Jarrett Jack. Although Clark is likely to start the season as the first guard off the bench, don’t be surprised if a change is made quickly if necessary. Clark is sporting a 30% field goal percentage and 13.3% from three-point range. Remember, he got off to a horrid start last season as well and Gentry has more options this year.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Toronto Raptors
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: Wednesday, October 11, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: Pelicans App, 99.5 FM WRNO