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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans head to Indiana to face Pacers as ‘dumpster fire’ blazes on

Anthony Davis will remain in the starting lineup. What could possibly go wrong?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans finally seemed to have put the Anthony Davis saga behind them.

As Davis and agent Rich Paul were exiting the Smoothie King Center last Thursday, the Pelicans were tearing through the Western Conference’s third-best team (OKC) without him en route to a 131-122 victory.

In response to this unannounced departure, the Pelicans removed general manager Dell Demps from his post the following morning, likely in response to this embarrassing display on national television.

Fast forward one week, and Anthony Davis still just can’t seem to keep his name out of the news.

Even commissioner Adam Silver seemed comfortable with the idea of defending the Pelicans’ point of view:

“I think the difference is, you don’t want to see that play out publicly,” Silver said. “And here there was a trade demand. It creates, understandably, a very awkward position between the team and the player and what the role is of the league in terms of injecting itself in the middle of a team’s decision on playing that player. These become very context-specific issues for the league office and not subject to computer programs that spit out answers.”

But in a shocking turn of events, the New Orleans Pelicans announced today that Anthony Davis would in fact play against the Indiana Pacers in the Pelicans first bit of action since the All-Star break.

So, why remove Dell Demps then?

The actions by the Pelicans’ organization can only be described as inexplicable, and once again, head coach Alvin Gentry is left holding the reins to the runaway wagon as the Pelicans fly to Indiana for Friday night’s circus.

With or without Victor Oladipo, the Indiana Pacers are a dangerous adversary. At 38-20, the Pacers carry the third-best record in the East, having won six straight matchups before losing to the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks last Thursday night, 106-97.

One of those six victories came in New Orleans against the Jrue Krewe in a 109-107 battle that came down to the final seconds. Down 109-106, Jrue Holiday pulled up for a potential game-tying three-point shot, only to be fouled before hand. Holiday hit his first free throw, then purposely missed his second, but the Pelicans were unable to secure the offensive board.

Jahlil Okafor led the Pelicans with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but Darren Collison’s five points (22 overall) in the final two minutes gave the Pacers the advantage they needed.

The Pelicans did an impressive bit of work against Myles Turner, holding him to 15 points on 5/17 shooting. Domantas Sabonis broke out of his slump, with 16 points and 13 rebounds off the bench on 7/9 shooting. This time, however, Sabonis will spend many of his minutes against Anthony Davis and Julius Randle, who were both held out of the February 4th matchup.

The Pacers also added a buyout veteran in Wesley Matthews who should start alongside Darren Collison. Matthews shot 2/7 in his first bit of action with the Pacers and shouldn’t fare much better against Jrue.

The Pacers remain slow and steady with the NBA’s 5th-slowest pace, and second-best defense (first in points allowed). And while it takes a village to get into triple-digits for this young group on the offensive end (seven players averaging double-digits per game), the Pacers hold the sixth-best average scoring margin (+5.2) in the NBA.

The Pelicans are beginning a difficult slate to end the season, but they are getting some reinforcements in the forms of Elfrid Payton and E’Twaun Moore. Payton has been solid if unspectacular in his role as floor general, and his unavailability has to be considered a large contributor to the Pelicans free falling. This will be just his 20th appearance in 60 possible games.

Moore will be held out of back-to-backs likely for the remainder of the season due to a variety of ailments. Though his production has slammed to a halt since his blistering start in November, his 42.8% shooting touch from deep still sits eighth in the NBA.

Darius Miller is also listed as questionable due to a sore ankle.

Starting lineups:

Pelicans: Payton - Jrue - Kenrich - Randle - Davis

Pacers: Collison - Matthews - Bogdanovic - Young - Turner

Let’s geaux, Pels?

Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans (26-33) at Indiana Pacers (38-20)

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

When: Friday, February 22nd, 2018, 6:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO