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NBA Preview: Pelicans hope to get past Pacers, notch third victory in last five games

Is New Orleans on an upswing?

New Orleans Pelicans v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After notching only one victory in the first 13 games, the New Orleans Pelicans have added two more in the last four contests. The trend seems positive, but more confirmation would be preferred. There will be a good chance for that in Indiana with tonight’s matchup against the Pacers.

Despite the addition of Rick Carlisle to the coaching sidelines, and a starting lineup featuring Domantas Sabonis (17.6 points, 11.2 rebounds), Myles Turner (12.8 points, 3.1 blocks), Malcolm Brogdon (21.7 points, 6.2 assists) and Caris LeVert (15.4 points, 3.1 assists), the Pacers have gotten off to a very uneven 6-11 start. They’ve been better of late though, going 5-4 in their last nine games. Moreover, the stats point towards a team that should be much closer to a .500 winning percentage.

The Pacers have the 15th-best offense and 19th-best defense. They rank in the top 10 in total rebounding %, true shooting % and points in the paint. Their offense is acceptable in general outside of getting to the free throw line or producing too many turnovers. Their defense is susceptible to giving up a lot of points off turnovers.

There are some interesting parallels to New Orleans, too. Indiana typically gets off to good starts (+12.1 net rating in first quarters), but it’s all downhill after that. Clutch minutes, in particular, are a nightmare. The Pelicans haven’t won a game yet (0-8) where the score has been five points or less in the last five minutes of a regulation. The Pacers haven’t been much better, winning just three games in 12 such opportunities.

A recent loss to the rebuilding Pistons highlights many of their issues. They couldn’t score down the stretch, tallying 10 points over the final 10:41 of the game, and finished the game with more turnovers than assists.

Getting over the hump isn’t something the Pelicans are known to do well, but they surprised many with their strong second half play against the Clippers in Friday’s 94-81 victory.

“The thing about us is; even when we get down, and we dig ourselves a hole, we always for the most part fight back and get back into the game,” Josh Hart said after beating L.A. last night. “We let the game slip away, or we got a big lead and then we give it up. In those adverse situations, we don’t execute and give the game away. Today was a big game for us in terms of growing up and maturing because we fought back, and when we fought back, we were able to get stops, we were able to run, we were able to execute and get to our spots.”

With both teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back, solid execution will be paramount. Whichever team does a better job of keeping turnovers to a minimum, creating good looks and avoiding defensive breakdowns should find themselves in position to grab a win on Saturday.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (3-14) at Indiana Pacers (6-11)

When: November 20, 2021, 6:00 pm

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.