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Containing De’Aaron Fox top priority for Pelicans in matchup against Kings

Can New Orleans take care of business against a lesser opponent on consecutive nights?

Sacramento Kings v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

After a 116-109 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New Orleans Pelicans are returning to the hardwood 24 hours later, hosting the Sacramento Kings inside the Smoothie King Center Tuesday night.

The Kings represent another major test for the Pelicans. While Sacramento sits below New Orleans in the standings, the lower tier of teams have given the Pelicans all sorts of fits this season. They’re 9-11 against the bottom 14 in the league, nearly falling to the Cavaliers last night before riding a strong fourth quarter to victory.

“Isaac Okoro, career-high, {Dean} Wade, career-high, Kevin Love, season-high, {Matthew} Dellavedova, season-high in assists,” Stan Van Gundy said after yesterday’s win in Cleveland. “This was Cleveland Cavalier record-setting night against the New Orleans Pelicans.”

The Pelicans simply fail to get up for all their games equally despite the constant preachings of their head coach.

“What I said to them after the game, I’ve said many times. I have unbelievable respect for anyone who’s good enough to play in this league. You have to be a great player to ever set foot on an NBA floor. A great player. So they’re all capable on one night. I don’t know how you would take anybody lightly. There isn’t one guy in this league, that on any given night, who can kick your ass.”

The Kings haven’t kicked anyone’s ass for awhile, arriving on a six-game losing streak. And the potential for further disappointment in New Orleans will be increased by the fact that known Pelican-killer De’Aaron Fox is coming in hot, averaging 28.1 points, 6.7 assists and 6.0 free throws since the start of March.

If you may recall, Fox has lit up the New Orleans defense twice already as reflected by his two-game season averages of 40.5 points and 12.5 assists. His 70.3 true shooting percentage against the Pelicans is Zion Williamson-like in a small sample size versus particular teams.

While the burden of slowing down Fox will fall on everyone who steps onto the floor, the biggest share of responsibility should be on Eric Bledsoe. That’s an intimidating proposition. Bled’s effectiveness has been a roller coaster ride for New Orleans. For instance, he struggled to contain Dellavedova from getting to his spots last night through the first three quarters and Fox is maybe hundred times the threat of the Cavaliers guard.

Adding to the concern, New Orleans will be without Lonzo Ball, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart, but Sacramento will only be missing Marvin Bagley Jr.

After getting called out for needing to deliver more, will Zion and Brandon Ingram step up on the defensive side of the floor? Can Naji Marshall deliver a solid encore performance after an MVP showing on the first night of this back-to-back? Will James Johnson, Kira Lewis and Jaxson Hayes continue to impress?

The Pelicans should never expect for the Kings to just walk into the arena and hand them a W. They’ve got to go out and earn it. Fingers crossed.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (24-29) vs Sacramento Kings (22-31)

When: April 12, 8:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Bally Sports NOLA

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.