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Pelicans hope for repeat performance from Zion Williamson, availability from Steven Adams versus Kings

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Can New Orleans beat Sacramento again?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

A quarter of the way into any NBA season, squads will have usually revealed their true colors. 18 games into the 2020-21 campaign, we’re still not sure what to expect from these New Orleans Pelicans on any given night.

Monday’s matchup against the Sacramento Kings, a team with one additional victory in the standings than the Pels, feels as likely to result in a win as a loss because the inconsistencies with energy, execution and focus are very real.

Following the best practice of the season thanks to the postponement of the contest against the Spurs per David Griffin, the Pelicans produced a 124-106 victory over the Wizards and then a scintillating 131-126 win over the Bucks. However, copious amounts of porous effort — namely a disastrous 48-22 second quarter that went in favor of the other guys — led to a dismal 126-112 defeat to the Rockets.

The Pelicans had the day off yesterday due to playing a back-to-back, but maybe they’ll survive not having a session of drilling better habits. New Orleans beat these Kings two weeks ago. Behind Zion Williamson's nearly flawless shooting performance that netted 31 points, the Pelicans left Sacramento with a 128-123 win on Jan 17.

The biggest positive factor that could tip the scales for New Orleans might be out of their control. Steven Adams is listed as questionable with left calf tightness. He left the game without returning versus Houston at the 4:48 mark of the third quarter. The Pelicans were on a 21-11 run out of halftime, but after Adams departed, New Orleans’ charge came to a screeching halt.

If Adams can’t go, Stan Van Gundy will have to split 48 minutes at center among a number of uninspiring choices: Jaxson Hayes, Nicolo Melli, Willie Hernangomez and Zion. None has shown the proficiency necessary to anchor the paint for the majority of a game to date.

If Adams can play, the defense will undoubtedly be stronger, but the Pelicans will still have to figure out a way to slow down De’Aaron Fox. Sacramento’s point guard erupted for a career-high 43 points last time out. Eric Bledsoe, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr. were not up to the task, but maybe Lonzo Ball will be? He has been New Orleans best perimeter defender on the season.

Before falling by a point in Miami this past Saturday, the Kings had strung together three straight victories. The Rockets entered New Orleans on a four-game winning streak. Hot, confident teams are a scary recipe.

But then again, we’ve come to expect the unexpected with these Pelicans.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (7-11) vs Sacramento Kings (8-11)

When: February 1, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: FSNO

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.