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NBA Preview: Pelicans Return Home After Successful Road Trip, Look to Continue Winning Ways Against Indiana

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After a 3-1 road trip, New Orleans tries to protect home court.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans gifted us all one final present on Christmas Day with a surprising win over the Denver Nuggets to put a bow on a 3-1 road trip.

Now, with the past two nights off, New Orleans is back in the Smoothie King Center tonight and will try to keep the momentum going and snap a hideous losing streak at home. Yeah, it’s been a while since New Orleans has won at home. In fact, it’s been 38 days. The Pelicans, losers of seven straight home games, welcome the Indiana Pacers. Indiana’s won seven of its last 10 games but are a sub-500 team on the road, posting a 7-8 record in away games. They lost 113-112 to the Heat in Miami last night, too.

Despite their road woes and the absence of All-Star Victor Oladipo, who continues to work his way back from last season’s quad rupture, the Pacers still own a 21-11 record overall and are right in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers are a half game out of being a top-four team in the East and are hopeful to get Oladipo back in mid-January.

The Pacers — at least without Oladipo — do not have one dominant scorer; instead they get consistent scoring from a bevy of players. Six players are averaging 10 or more points and a seventh, Doug McDermott, is averaging 9.6 points. Malcolm Brogdon, acquired over the summer from Milwaukee, is leading Indiana in both scoring and assists, while Domantas Sabonis is top-five in the entire NBA in rebounding with 13.5 a game. Sabonis has become more involved with Indiana, moving from a sixth man to starter. So far this season he has started more games than the past two years combined.

Sabonis starting has changed Indiana fundamentally, and no one has been effected more so than center Myles Turner. For the bulk of his career, Turner was guarded by centers. Now that he’s sharing the floor with Sabonis, Turner has been getting matched up with opposing power forwards. While he typically has the height and weight advantage, the opposition has a quicker player marking him to balance things out. Now that Sabonis is starting alongside him, Turner’s numbers have changed. His scoring and rebounding numbers have dipped slightly, but he’s averaging 4.4 three-point attempts a game which is by far and away a career best — and it leads the Pacers roster!

Indiana’s picked up some signature wins in recent weeks. They held off Toronto in overtime on Monday, beat the Lakers on December 17th and topped Boston December 11th. It must be mentioned that the Pacers are also 7-2 against the West this season.

Indiana hasn’t been beating teams by getting into track meets with them, instead they muddy things up for the opponent. Indiana’s only 18th in scoring but more than compensate by ranking in the top-five in points allowed.

But perhaps that’s exactly what New Orleans wants right now. The Pelicans have seen a marked improvement defensively the past few games, thanks in large part to Derrick Favors getting a larger share of minutes. He was key in helping New Orleans knock off one of the league’s best bigs in Nikola Jokic, let’s see if he can duplicate his success against Indiana.

Geaux Pels!

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (9-23) vs Indiana Pacers (21-11)

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

When: Saturday, December 28, 2019 6:00 PM CST

How: FSNO, FSIN