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Pelicans wrap up first half of schedule against surging Miami Heat

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Can New Orleans get to the All-Star break with a win?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans wrap up the first half of their schedule tonight, hosting the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat for their second game of the season. Miami rode a massive 23-6 second quarter run to victory in their first matchup on Christmas Day. While the Pelicans would battle back, they could never completely close the gap as they fell 111-98.

Does it sound familiar? Almost every Pelicans’ loss seems to have the same formula lately. Giving up an enormous run and digging a hole too deep, that despite their best efforts down the stretch, ultimately results in a loss. Or, as our own David Grubb put most succinctly on Twitter last night.

Sometimes it is that simple. The Pelicans seem to believe they can ratchet down the pressure defensively for 12-16 minutes a game and it will be sufficient.

The Miami Heat were on a six-game winning streak prior to their 94-80 loss to the Atlanta Hawks last night. Of note, Jimmy Butler did not play. He is listed as questionable tonight but is traveling with the team.

Bam Adebayo was added to the Heat’s injury report this afternoon, so there’s a chance the Pelicans could catch a real break — but will New Orleans seize the opportunity?

Stan Van Gundy pointed out last night that the team seems to take their failures on offense more seriously than their failures on defense. Of note, the Pelicans are one of the league leaders on offense and field the worst defense in the league at the moment. Perhaps his pointed comments to the media may help them refocus. Or the trade deadline. That may help too.

New Orleans found a new way to lose last night, as they were pummeled on the glass by the Chicago Bulls. Chicago ended up with 13 offensive rebounds and 54 rebounds overall, beating the Pelicans on the glass to the tune of 54-43. For New Orleans to come out victorious tonight they need to get back to their identity, which starts with keeping opponents out of the paint and limited to one shot per trip.

Zion Williamson continues to pile up ridiculous numbers and highlights. He’s growing his game each night out. Tonight’s test against Bam Adebayo, if he plays, and the Miami Heat provide another marker for his growth offensively. While Zion had 32 points and 14 rebounds in their first matchup in South Beach, he also tallied just 1 assist compared to 3 turnovers. The Pelicans offense with Zion tonight will be unrecognizable to the Heat from their Christmas Day matinee.

Let’s hope the Pelicans find a way to put forth 48 minutes of effort tonight. On both ends.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (15-20) vs Miami Heat (17-18)

When: March 4, 7:30 p.m. Central

Where to watch: TNT

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 @Fish_TBW.