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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans need to capitalize against free falling Charlotte Hornets

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One of the few remaining games for the Pelicans on the schedule against a non playoff contender.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans need to get back into the win column, and the Charlotte Hornets look poised to provide the assist.

Although the Pelicans find themselves in an advantageous position at 38-28 and sole possession of the fifth seed, the margin of error in the Western Conference is unforgiving. A third consecutive loss would put them in the same company as the Thunder, Timberwolves, and Clippers, and barely ahead of a 4-team jam at 30 losses — two of which currently reside outside of the playoff bubble.

The Hornets, meanwhile, have little to play for in the ever separating Eastern Conference. While just two losses separate the fourth and tenth seed in the West, the Charlotte Hornets, sit six and half games behind the 8th seeded Miami Heat. At 29-38, the Charlotte Hornets are out of the playoff race, and they have nothing to play for beyond their pride and future organizations.

That said, what kind of future at they looking at? Their front office has long wished to move on from Nicolas Batum’s five year, $120 million dollar contract. Kemba Walker was discussed in trades this year, before their owner and GOAT, Michael Jordan, put a stop to it. Rumors have even begun surfacing as to the future of the general manager position in Charlotte.

Thus, to be frank, the Pelicans simply cannot afford to lose Tuesday’s matchup. The Hornets are 10-21 on road, in the midst of a difficult road trip, and were losers of five straight before surviving late against the Phoenix Sun on Saturday night in Charlotte, where they are a respectable 19-17.

The Hornets are an aging roster, filled with veterans in the latter stages of their careers. They have little to no young prospects to fear, beyond Malik Monk, and they have no discernable identity. Dwight Howard’s resurgence has been a noteworthy story, but the team’s lack of success has reduced it to an afterthought.

If the Hornets hope to have any chance in this one, they will look to take advantage on the boards, where they rank first in offensive rebounds and fourth overall in total rebounds. Walker needs to be aggressive from the tip and will look for shooters in Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb and Batum to get going early.

Batum will likely take on the assignment of Jrue Holiday, and Marvin Williams and MKG will look to double Anthony Davis whenever possible.

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Bobcats Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With a hobbled bench, the Hornets will have to rely on their starters and another big performance from Howard. Dwight will face off with his former 2004 lottery mate Emeka Okafor, who will be facing the team that drafted him and ultimately traded him to New Orleans back in 2009.

The Pelicans will look to push the pace and get going offensively where they have struggled as of late. Should the Hornets manage to limit AD’s production as they did back in January, it will take a collective effort from the supporting cast, especially against the Charlotte’s short-handed bench unit.

The last time these two teams faced each other, Dwight Howard dominated the Pelicans two All-Star big men. While Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins had combined for 35 points and 19, Dwight Howard and Frank Kaminsky poured in 38 and 21 of their own. The Hornets owned the paint: outrebounding the Pelicans by ten and outscoring in the paint by 14.

The difference was Jrue Holiday.

Boogie noticed early on in the contest that Dwight was not helping, but remained fully focused on Boogie on every possession. With this bit of information in mind, he made sure Jrue knew to be aggressive late. With two late baskets inside the final two minutes, Jrue provided the cushion the Pels needed against a feisty foe, still battling for playoff relevance.

Jrue finished with 19 points, leading the Pelicans in scoring with AD. Holiday also did a nice job limiting Kemba Walker to 20 points on 8/21 shooting. Marvin Williams contributed 16.

The New Orleans Pelicans are 19-8 against the Charlotte Hornets, and have won the past three dating back to March of 2016.

Game Notes

  • The hobbled Hornets should have difficultly with bench production in this one. Cody Zeller was held out of last Saturday’s contest due to lingering knee soreness and should be considered doubtful for this one.
  • So too, Michael Carter Williams has been deemed done for the season, due to a posterior labral tear in his left shoulder.
  • Even Marvin Williams could be a question mark, with a laceration and possible concussion, though, there is a good chance he will have recovered in the four days since this injury.
  • Willy Hernangomez, formerly of the New York Knicks, will likely get playing time in this one. In eight games with the Hornets, he’s averaging but five minutes, but with the injury to Zeller, he could see a significant increase.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Charlotte Hornets

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: March 13, 2018, 7:00 PM Central

How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM