The New Orleans Pelicans (43-32) will take their W-2’s into Quicken Loans Arena to face off against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavilers (45-30) for the final time this season.
In their first match-up, New Orleans won handily on their home floor, 123-101. However, both teams look a lot different since that previous meeting back in October. The Pelicans no longer have the services of All-World center DeMarcus Cousins, and the Cavaliers have essentially turned over their entire roster.
Remarkably, despite the internal flux, Cleveland has maintained the three seed in the Leastern Conference and is poised for another leisurely stroll to the NBA Finals. The Cavs, however, still have a ton to play for as they try to develop chemistry on the fly and hold off conference foes Philadelphia, Indiana, and Washington.
To complete the season sweep, New Orleans will have to succeed in three key areas.
Keys To Victory
Protect The Three-Point Stripe
Cleveland takes the fifth most three-point attempts per game (32.3) and they also convert at an efficient rate (36.8%). With the recent return of forward Kevin Love, the Cavaliers will be even better from downtown so New Orleans will have to be cognizant of who they are matched up against and avoid leaving shooters wide open. The Pelicans have had the second best defensive rating among winning teams post All-Star break; it will be interesting to see if they can continue the trend of improved defense against one of the league’s best.
Rebounding & Turnovers
We’ve all seen the tragedy that befalls the opponents of Lebron James who commit excessive turnovers. Turnovers create fast break opportunities for Cleveland and James is one of the best of all time at turning opponent missteps into momentum changing fast break assaults on the rim. New Orleans currently ranks 23rd in the association in turnovers so they will have to limit their mistakes if they want to keep the home court fans out of the game.
Additionally, New Orleans will need to dominate the boards to prevent Cleveland from getting second chance opportunities. Lebron is simply too good to give him more opportunities to score. In their last game against Portland, New Orleans gave up crucial offensive rebounds in crunch time which ultimately contributed to their defeat. With Anthony “keep the Brow” Davis up front, New Orleans should clearly have the advantage in the front court so winning the rebound game will be key.
Find The Love
Kevin Love is a great player, but let’s face it, defense just isn’t his thing. However, Love is extremely dangerous on the offensive side of the ball, especially from the corner three. Sometimes your best defense is a good offense. Alvin Gentry and staff should try to scheme ways to exploit Love defensively. If Gentry can create mismatches forcing Kevin Love to guard Anthony “KEEP THE BROW!!!” Davis and/or Jrue Holiday, this will render Love virtually unplayable for long stretches of the game, mitigating the damage he can do on the other end.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs King James (Dilly Dilly)
Where: Quicken Loans Arena
When: March 30, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: ESPN, WRNO 99.5 FM