After a trip to the West Coast that saw the Pelicans pick up a pair of wins and give the Lakers a good fight Tuesday night, New Orleans is back home in the Smoothie King Center for the first time since the All-Star break.
New Orleans has yet another golden opportunity to close the gap between itself and the Memphis Grizzlies, as the Pelicans play host to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. The last time New Orleans and Cleveland met, the Pelicans made pretty easy work of the Cavs, winning 125-111. Jrue Holiday had 28 points and eight rebounds, while Brandon Ingram pitched in 24 and six in the first meeting.
Since New Orleans and Cleveland’s meeting, the Cavs have made some seismic changes. John Beilein resigned the day before the All-Star break ended and the Cavaliers are now coached by J.B. Bickerstaff. Cleveland also traded for longtime Detroit Piston center Andre Drummond.
In five games with Cleveland, Drummond has been a walking double-double scoring 10 while grabbing 12 rebounds. Second year guard Collin Sexton has also flashed some improved play since the break. Sexton is shooting more threes, hitting them at a higher rate, and is getting to the free throw line more often. He’s spreading the ball around better as well, upping his assist average from 2.7 to 4.0.
But the biggest change for Cleveland is that the Cavaliers are playing better ball since the All-Star break. The Cavaliers have won three of four games and the last two have been over playoff teams: the Miami Heat and a banged up Philadelphia 76ers team. Joel Embiid left eight minutes into the game with a shoulder sprain, while Ben Simmons continued to be sidelined by a back injury. But a win is a win, and it’s Cleveland, not New Orleans, going into Friday’s game on a winning streak.
Though the Pelicans are the favorites on paper, this shouldn’t be a game the Pelicans take lightly. New Orleans hasn’t exactly been dominant at home, owning an 11-17 record in the Smoothie King Center, and laying an egg against a bottom-five team would be a disastrous loss for the Pelicans. The Pelicans got plenty of help Thursday night with Portland and Sacramento losing; now its on New Orleans to take matters into their own hands and move closer to that coveted No. 8 seed.
Where To Watch/Listen
What: New Orleans Pelicans (25-33) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (17-41)
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
When: Friday, February 28, 2020, 7:00 PM
Watch: FSNO, FSOH
Listen: ESPN Radio 100.3 FM