The New Orleans Pelicans (41-30) march to the 2018 playoffs continues, with the Indiana Pacers (41-30) standing in line as the next obstacle. In case it slipped minds, this game was originally supposed to be played on February 7, but the roof in the Smoothie King Center sprung a leak on that fateful night, postponing the contest to today — hey, Darius Miller’s birthday!
The biggest question leading up to the start of tonight’s game will be the status of Jrue Holiday: Will he play after missing the Mavericks contest with flu-like symptoms? Keep those fingers crossed because Victor Oladipo is one of the most explosive shooting guards in the league, averaging 23.3 points, 4.2 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
It is important to note, however, that Indiana has one of the most rounded rosters in the Eastern Conference. Following the departure of Paul George, no one figured the Pacers could make any noise, but in addition to Oladipo, Myles Turner, Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic are all apt to score 20+ points, and Thad Young and Lance Stephenson can be relied upon to provide solid support.
This balance has propelled the Pacers to fourth place in the East, just ahead of the Wizards and 76ers. Although they’ve only gone 8-5 since the All-Star break, do not take Indiana lightly. In addition to getting a lot of players back from recent injury, they’ve been playing some stout defense, recording the fourth best defensive rating since the break.
Three Keys to Victory
The reserves keep rolling. Over the last three contests, the Pelicans bench has averaged 43.3 points. Ian Clark, Cheick Diallo and Nikola Mirotic have led the charge and their combined production has been a far cry from the numbers posted by the bench earlier in the season. It would be nice, though, to see Miller get back on track as he’s averaging just 5.9 points a contest over his last 13 games.
Watch the turnovers. The Pacers are averaging a significant 20.4 points (3rd) off turnovers since the All-Star break. Fortunately for the Pelicans, they’ve done a much better job of protecting the basketball, averaging 13.1 turnovers (8th) since the break, but it would really help matters if they finish short of that mark tonight.
Keep riding the post-break MVP. Anthony Davis is leading the league with 31.6 points since the break, but he’s contributed in so many other areas (12.7 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.8 steals) that can only make James Harden blush. We have all probably taken him for granted at one time or another since DeMarcus Cousins tore his Achilles, but count your lucky stars that the big guy doesn’t mind, or more importantly, the fact he doesn’t know what it means to take a night off!
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Indiana Pacers
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: March 21, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM