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Pelicans have opportunity to rebound against Nets with Durant, Harden out

How will New Orleans respond after two deflating overtime losses?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Following two straight overtime losses in which the team relinquished not insignificant late fourth quarter leads, nothing would be more Pelicans than beating a favorite of many to reach the next NBA finals.

New Orleans is hosting the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday evening and that’s the only opponent inside the top eight of the league in win percentage that the Pelicans haven’t beaten yet this season.

Despite a remarkable ability to astound top competition, it’s unlikely to think at first glance that New Orleans will add Brooklyn to the impressive list based on the result of a matchup earlier this month. The Nets routed the Pelicans 139-111 in Kevin Durant’s return to action after being sidelined for weeks with injury. Brooklyn was on fire from the perimeter, New Orleans was not — an all too common theme this month.

The Pelicans have shot better than 32% from 3-point range just twice in 11 April games, and the bad perimeter shooting has had a profound effect on the rest of the offense.

After scoring 120+ points a total of 17 times in the months of January, February and March, the Pelicans have accomplished the feat just once in April (the 122-115 victory over the Rockets). Have a look at how the team’s offensive rating has taken a nose dive.

The absences of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart have hurt, but don’t forget that Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have missed multiple games this month. However, since the return of the biggest components of the starting lineup, the offense has remained stale.

The struggles of Ball have been most identifiable. Outside of a splendid 27-point, 8-three performance against the Rockets, Ball has been ice-cold from the perimeter, making 6 of 32 three-point attempts. New Orleans relies on his spacing as much as anyone on this roster.

So, let’s get to the glimmer of hope: James Harden and Kevin Durant have already been ruled out for this matchup.

With Nic Claxton out for health and safety protocols — remember how he stymied Zion and other Pels in the paint? — and LaMarcus Aldridge retiring last week after experiencing an irregular heartbeat, the Nets are going to be noticeably shorthanded.

There’s probably a good chance that Kyrie Irving goes off for 40+ and Joe Harris nails a bunch of threes, but it’s important to note that Brooklyn has an 11-12 record when Harden hasn’t been available.

When Durant and Harden have both been unavailable? A 3-5 record.

Is that hope I read ... or fool’s gold?

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (25-32) vs Brooklyn Nets (38-19)

When: April 20, 6:30 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 @OlehKosel.