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Pelicans, Hawks matchup could feature Lonzo vs Trae but don’t count out Isaiah Thomas

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I.T. has to be itching to make another splash in the NBA

New Orleans Pelicans v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Who is ready for Battle of the Injury Reports Part Deux?

Ahead of their second and final meeting of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks will be without a number of key players again and it’s likely a few more names will be added to the list before tip-off.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, John Collins, Kris Dunn, DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish have already been ruled out. Kira Lewis Jr. is doubtful. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are questionable. And Clint Cappela is probable.

To be honest, prepare yourselves for some Trae Young vs Isaiah Thomas. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re going to be spoiled with at least several minutes of a shootout between one of the premier young scoring talents in the league and a veteran eager to show his abilities resemble the version of the player last witnessed in Boston before the hip issues began.

“It’s like night and day for me,” Thomas told ESPN back in October. “There’s no more pain. I’ve got my full range of motion. For three years, I was trying to play the best players in the world on one leg. I needed help from my kids to put my socks on in the morning.

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe will soak up a lot of usage, but with the Pelicans lacking guards behind the two starters, Thomas is line for a wonderful opportunity.

“Who we know we’ll have: we’ll have Bled, we’ll have Lonzo, we’ll have I.T. — he’s going to have to play,” Stan Van Gundy said after Sunday’s win over the Rockets. “Oh, Kira’s day-to-day, too, we’ll see but I don't really expect it with him.”

Remember with a dearth of guards in Houston, Van Gundy decided to start Jaxson Hayes and Steven Adams together and bring Nickeil off the bench. Thomas is likely to slide right into that NAW role so we should expect for him to soak up over 20 minutes of action. Hopefully, I.T.’s old familiar shooting touch will be on display from the jump because he only has the length of a 10-day contract to prove himself and New Orleans is going to have to keep pace with Atlanta.

The Hawks should have six players who can hit double digits in scoring with relative ease: Young, Kevin Huerter, Brian Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Capela (let’s assume he’ll be a go). And let’s not forget, these Hawks have responded well to their new head coach despite ever-changing rotations.

Atlanta has posted a 12-4 record under Nate McMillan and they’ve won four of their last six games — all matchups coming against Western Conference teams.

Zo, James Johnson and Willie Hernangomez were especially effective against the Rockets. New Orleans is likely to require another vaunted effort from a trio of guys. If the Pelicans are without Ingram and Zion once more, who do you think rises to the challenge if a mild upset is in store?

My heart so badly wants for one of the players to be I.T. — who doesn’t love a heartwarming comeback story?

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.