The New Orleans Pelicans (28-25) remain stuck in reverse since DeMarcus Cousins was lost to a season-ending injury, but as to where pessimism reigned about their chances against the Utah Jazz, I feel loads better about the odds of snaring a victory against the Indiana Pacers (30-25) on Wednesday evening.
Since Christmas Day, the Pacers have won just three of ten road games. Their offense has been below average and their defense downright awful away from Indiana, posting a 110.6 defensive rating. Scoring 102.0 points per game isn’t nearly enough when a defense has been over five points worse at 107.2 points per game.
To make matters worse for Indiana, they’ll be without Darren Collison, their third best player according to NBA.com on/off data. Collison had successful arthroscopic knee surgery and is scheduled to miss the next 2-3 weeks. Cory Joseph should draw the start at point guard as he did against the Wizards on Monday. He’s a fine backup but hasn’t remotely performed on Collison’s level this season. Darren was in the midst of the best campaign of his career, posting personal bests in PER, TS%, WS/48 and numerous other statistics.
One last bit of promising news is the fact that Victor Oladipo, the Pacers best offensive weapon, will be trying to bounce back from illness. If he is able to play, the 2018 All-Star will have the pleasure of facing Jrue Holiday, who has cannibalized many an assignment of late. Donovan Mitchell managed to score just two points and committed three turnovers on Monday and Paul George tallied only 15 points on 4-16 shooting last week. In case you forgot, Holiday held Oladipo to 15 points on 17 shots in their first meeting back in November.
Like I wrote a few days ago, a team’s overall record is far from the only indicator one should rely on when analyzing a matchup. This one’s winnable for the Pelicans. Very winnable.
Three Keys to Victory
Execute the standard offense. The Pacers can be scored upon so nothing fancy is required. In their last ten road games, opponents are knocking down shots at a 48.9% clip (6th) and averaging 32.4 three-point looks (3rd). Boogie is no longer around, but after witnessing the Pelicans put up 114 points in Oklahoma City, 107 in Minnesota and 109 against Utah at home — all figures well above each opponent’s defensive norms, scoring shouldn’t be an issue for New Orleans...unless they make it one.
Anthony Davis live up to #DoItBig mantra. Myles Turner is currently dealing with a knee issue that has severely hampered his efforts over the Pacers last two games. After being forced to contend with Rudy Gobert, Davis should feel like a freed bird from captivity — Fly as high and as far as the eye can see!
Keep utilizing the bench. Head Coach Alvin Gentry is starting to turn to his bench more often here during this new month and that seems like a good plan to keep following. The core players cannot continue to play around 40 minutes a game as Davis and Holiday are both showing signs of fatigue. Moreover, the reserves are producing! In the three February games to date, the bench is averaging 31 points on 47.5% shooting — noticeably higher marks than the 24.2 points on 44.7% shooting seen previously on the season.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Indiana Pacers
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: February 7, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM