Thanks to a rare indoor event — specifically a rainout — that led to a postponement of the Pacers matchup inside the Smoothie King Center, the New Orleans Pelicans (28-25) should be well rested when they tackle the Philadelphia 76ers (26-25) in the City of Brotherly Love.
Expect for spirits to still be soaring high in Philly with the Eagles winning Super Bowl 52 and the city celebrating with a parade on Thursday. Maybe some of the 76ers got caught up amid all the hoopla this week and they will not be as ready as they should for the task at hand? Yeah, it’s boiled down to grasping at straws for most fans as New Orleans has won just once in the last five games on the schedule.
DeMarcus Cousins, we miss you terribly; however, we’re tired of consistently being reminded of this fact. The Pelicans have been shorthanded, for sure, but the talent level is better than their recent record. You can’t lose to the 17-36 Sacramento Kings twice on your home floor during the same season. Not to a team who incredibly just waived their 2016 first round pick at the NBA trade deadline.
Anyways, enough ranting, let’s talk 76ers.
Everything starts with Joel Embiid, and rightly so, because the second-year center can do it all. Prior to a typical media session after practice once, Head Coach Alvin Gentry and the rest of us present gushed about his prodigious talent. Embiid had just recently put up a 32-point, 16-rebound line against the Clippers and DeAndre Jordan, who fouled out in that particular contest, was unable to slow down “The Process.”
The Pelicans were fortunate to miss facing the beast in their earlier matchup on the schedule, but Embiid will play on Friday. With him, the Sixers have compiled a 24-17 record; without him, 2-8. Embiid is one of the biggest difference makers in the league and it’s going to require Anthony Davis playing like one too for New Orleans to have an opportunity to come up with a big road victory.
Of course, the Pelicans will also have to contend with Ben Simmons, JJ Redick...hell, Philly’s entire starting lineup. That group has amassed a +16.1 net rating on the season — they’re a buzzsaw, and if the Pelicans aren’t on top of their game, expect things to go very poorly at the start of the first quarter and/or the third quarter.
Before allowing total despair to set in because these periods coincide usually with the Pelicans most frail moments, remember that prior to the cancellation of the Pacers matchup on Wednesday, Gentry had made an important change to the starting lineup. Rajon Rondo was to move to the bench and DeAndre Liggins draw the start, with Jrue Holiday sliding back over to his natural point guard position.
This new look should still be in effect, and with it, give hope against a very big and athletic Philly squad. However, for New Orleans to emerge victorious, they’re going to have to fight. Brawl for every rebound — which they didn’t do for three quarters back in November, battle for paint equality — they were outscored 60-44 nearly two months ago to this day, and strive for better second, third, however many efforts it takes, to match the intensity that the Sixers are sure to show.
These kids in Philly have won 7 of 8 games at home since the calendar flipped to 2018 so it’s going to take a special performance by the Pelicans to leave on the plane happy.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Philadelphia 76ers
Where: Wells Fargo Arena
When: February 9, 2018, 6:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM