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NBA Preview: Can the Pelicans avoid the South Beach Flu against Jimmy Butler and the Heat?

The Pelicans managed their third-victory of the season in a scoring explosion against the Clippers. Now, they look to outrace the league’s third best defense in Miami.

Detroit Pistons v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans came up with a big victory at home last night against a shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers’ squad in Paul George’s spectacular debut.

Now, can they avoid the South Beach flu against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat?

Erik Spoelstra’s squad is led by ‘Most Improved’ candidate and anchor Bam Adebayo on the defensive end, who engineers their third-rated defense.

Offensively, the Heat are the league’s second-best at sharing the ball with the NBA’s second-highest assist per made field goal (fifth in assists overall). They are also the league’s third-leading team in effective field goal percentage.

While the Heat are one of the league’s best in shooting and passing, their ball-swinging mentality sets them up for a variety of mistakes as evidenced by their 30th rank in turnovers. The Pelicans will not be able to oust them on the glass (fourth in opponent rebounding) as they did against the Clippers but they should still manage plenty of additional opportunities.

However, the Heat do create their own opportunities as well as the league’s second-best in creating turnovers.

In addition to Butler’s productivity (18.5/6.5/5.5) the Heat are led by Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard. But the real reason behind the Heat’s early season success has been the breakout performances of Adebayo (13.5/10.5/4.5), Kendrick Nunn (17.5/3.3/ 2.5) and Tyler Herro (13.4/4.4/2). Through the first 11 games, Nunn leads the Heat in usage rate ahead of Butler, Dragic and Winslow.

Justise Winslow leads the team in minutes and plus minus as well as finishing second in rebounds and third in assists. However, his shooting still leaves much to be desired and he leads the team with 3.2 giveaways per game.

Jahlil Okafor and Brandon Ingram may be available for tonight’s contest (after being listed as questionable last night) and the Pelicans will need them with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Zion Williamson and Darius Miller all likely to sit.

The Pelicans played one of their most complete games Thursday night and still only barely managed a victory at home against an undermanned squad. Saturday night they will not have the advantage of the boards as they did against the smaller Montrezl Harrell (52-36) even if Derrick Favors performs as he did last night. Bam is a different kind of beast altogether and pulls in over ten rebounds per game (23.3 percent of defensive rebounds per game, 18th in the NBA).

Jrue Holiday needs to continue his surge. While the Pelicans don’t need him to shoulder the scoring load in Ingram’s presence as he did Thursday (36 points), they do need him to manage the offense a bit better. Holiday now sneaks into the top-20 in giveaways after the victory against the Clippers (seven).

Key to Victory

  • Win the Turnover Battle
  • Break even in rebounding
  • Contest Every Shot and Limit Three-Point Shooting

We know what to expect from the Pelicans offensively, even against one of the league’s best (third in the NBA) in Miami. The Pelicans have yet to score fewer than 104 points, and have scored 115 points or more in nine of their eleven games.

In order to win, they have to play their most fundamental game yet. That means fighting for every possession and forcing misses at the perimeter.

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (3-8) at Miami Heat (8-3)

Where: American Airlines Arena Miami, FL

When: Saturday, November 16, 2019 7:00 PM CDT.