The New Orleans Pelicans (12-17) will matchup with the Boston Celtics for the first time this season on Sunday afternoon in the Smoothie King Center. Losers of five of their last six games, the Pelicans are looking to break out of their latest slump. Sunday’s game will be the third in New Orleans’ current four-game home stand.
The Celtics enter the game coming off a home win against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. Despite being fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, the Celtics have underachieved relative to expectations so far this season, sitting just one game above the .500 mark.
“Listen, we all know that we have to be better. I think that that’s a common thought when things aren’t going well,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after their game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Boston will certainly be motivated to use New Orleans’ 29th ranked defensive rating to help get themselves on track.
Like most teams, the Celtics likely won’t have a great defensive matchup for Zion Williamson. That said, the Pelicans regularly struggle to defend opponents large wing scorers of which the Celtics boast two of the best in the association. The key to this game will be how New Orleans can guard Boston’s wing players Jayson Tatum (25.8 ppg) and Jaylen Brown (25.6 ppg). Look for Lonzo Ball to spend a lot of time guarding Tatum, with Brandon Ingram likely matching up against Brown; however, it will take a tough team effort to slow Boston’s pair of scorers.
Boston’s struggles this season have mostly been on offense. It’s not that they can’t score, but they can become stagnant with the team’s heavy reliance on Tatum and Brown. Boston ranks 28th in amount of their points that are generated from an assist, meaning they often devolve into isolation basketball featuring their top scorers. The Pelicans will have to bring their top defensive performance to prevent allowing the Celtics wings from torching their quivery defense.
Both the Pelicans and the Celtics have turnover issues at times. Boston ranks 22nd in turnover percentage while New Orleans currently stands at 20th in the category. While the Pels have been better with turnovers in recent games, they have still been shaky in key moments, like in the fourth quarter against the Suns Friday.
New Orleans could be without starting center Steven Adams, who is nursing a sprained ankle, for a second straight contest. Adams is reportedly feeling better, but he did not practice yesterday.
Boston will be without guards Romeo Langford (right wrist) and Marcus Smart (calf). Smart is the Celtics’ top perimeter defender so catching Boston without him could be pivotal for the Pelicans as they try to snap out of their latest funk.
Who: New Orleans Pelicans (12-17) vs Boston Celtics (15-14)
When: February 21, 2:30 p.m. Central
Where to watch: ABC
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM