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Game Thread: Without Zion, Lonzo — and maybe BI too, Nickeil, Kira and other Pelicans will have to pick up slack against Magic

A rebuilding team meets an injury-decimated one. Who wins??

New Orleans Pelicans v Orlando Magic Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images

The Pelicans will host the Orlando Magic tonight, and while this matchup would never be considered an intimidating one on paper, it’s impossible to overlook how often New Orleans has played down to the level of the competition this season. Plus, there’s a good chance that the margin for error will be small as the Pelicans could be without their top three scorers.

Zion Williamson (sprained right thumb) and Lonzo Ball (right hip flexor strain) were ruled out this afternoon, and Brandon Ingram was listed as doubtful with a right first MTP (big toe) irritation.

The Magic finally decided to go the route of a franchise rebuild before last Thursday’s trade deadline, moving Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier to greener pastures. On Tuesday, Orlando fielded a starting lineup of Michael Carter-Williams, Dwayne Bacon, James Ennis III, Chuma Okeke and Khem Birch ... and went on to beat the Clippers by a final score of 103-96.

No one should expect for these Magic to win games at a higher percentage over the remaining schedule than their predecessors, but an important lesson was learned a few days ago.

Young players and those waiting for a legitimate opportunity can make for a dangerous foe. For all those who find success on the NBA level, there’s a greater number of players eager to just prove themselves in this league. The Clippers probably weren’t prepared mentally to face unbridled enthusiasm for a full 48 minutes.

The Pelicans have won six of their last nine games, but this matchup against Orlando is shaping up to be an unusual challenge. If Ingram sits, Stan Van Gundy is going to have to devise a game plan that involves making up for the loss of 65 points per game.

Count on Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Eric Bledsoe and Kira Lewis Jr. needing to have good nights, but it feels like a more obscure candidate, say Naji Marshall or Wesley Iwundu, will be asked for positive contributions, too. Maybe Wes feels inspired to show his original team that they made a mistake in letting him go?

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (21-25) vs Orlando Magic (16-31)

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

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans — yup, no more Fox Sports New Orleans!

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.