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Pelicans executed winning blueprint in Brooklyn, can they repeat that performance against Hornets?

If New Orleans continues to play to their strengths, look out, NBA

New Orleans Pelicans v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans are in Charlotte tonight where they’ll battle the Hornets to remain unbeaten.

In their season-opening 130-108 victory over the Nets, we received a good look at the Pelicans’ blueprint for beating opponents this season.

One, live large and dominate the lane. Possessing Zion Williamson, a team should strive to win the points-in-the-paint, second-chance-points and free-throw-attempts categories by large margins. While the Pels only enjoyed an additional shot from the charity stripe, they massacred the Nets in the other two areas (62-46 PITP, 36-4 2nd chance).

Two, protect the paint. As to where the Pelicans took 62 of their 102 field goal attempts from inside the lane (60.8%), the Nets were held to just 39 paint attempts in 89 tries (43.8%).

Three, force opponents to take as many contested shots as possible. The Nets were held to 26 open or wide open shots, knocking down 10 of them. While the Nets didn’t do a good job of converting on those opportunities, the larger takeaway is that about 29% of their overall shot attempts were open or wide open looks. That’s a good figure as teams were generally above the 30 percent mark last season.

Four, push the pace in every instance. New Orleans trained all preseason to get shots up within the first 16 seconds of the shot clock. The Pelicans’ pace number of 102 sits squarely in the middle of the league after one game, but it’s deceiving. The Pelicans had 21 offensive rebounds so they could have wound up with a lot more possessions.

Five, keep turnovers to a minimum. The Pelicans had 31 assists versus 13 turnovers against the Nets. That’s a really good ratio! Last season, for instance, the Pels averaged 1.78 assists for every turnover.

As for what to expect from the Hornets, Charlotte won their season opener, knocking off the Spurs 129-102. Considering this game was played in San Antonio, this probably says more about just how bad the Spurs might be — the Victor Wembanyama race is going to be wild this season — than how good these Hornets are.

For instance, they didn’t have LaMelo Ball — and he’s listed as out for tonight’s matchup — but still managed that high point total.

If Charlotte’s leading fast break machine is out, the Hornets have other weapons that they can rely on. Terry Rozier can get hot and get his team well over 20 points. The same can be said about Kelly Oubre Jr. and Gordon Hayward.

The Hornets should also be regarded as a good perimeter shooting team. They made a high percentage of 3s against the Spurs (44.8%) and finished sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (36.5%) last season.

After getting past the Nets on Wednesday, the Hornets and Jazz are next up for the Pelicans. There’s a legitimate chance for New Orleans to begin this season with a 3-0 record.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (1-0) at Charlotte Hornets (1-0)

When: October 21, 2022, 6:00 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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.