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Slowing down Hawks’ guards will be key for Pelicans

New Orleans has the defensive weapons. Will Willie Green utilize everyone in Atlanta?

New Orleans Pelicans v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Mercedes Oliver/NBAE via Getty Images

After dispatching the short-handed Warriors less than 24 hours ago, the Pelicans must quickly turn their attention to the Hawks for a matchup tonight in Atlanta.

The first back-to-back of the season for New Orleans also marks the start of another three-game road trip, this time with a romp through the East. After the Hawks, the Pelicans with face the Pacers and Bulls, before returning to New Orleans for a much-needed six-game home stand.

One benefit for the Pels on Saturday, there’s familiarity. They faced these Hawks in the final game of the preseason, where both teams gave their starters a full allotment of minutes in the first half. In that 120-111 victory, the Pelicans raced out to a 40-24 lead at the end of the first quarter, before watching the Hawks carve them up with a 43-24 frame in the second.

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray will be a handful, as the Pelicans learned last month. They totaled 35 points against them before halftime and have gotten off to relatively good regular season starts.

Young’s efficiency is down a bit (38.5 FG%, 31.7 3PT%), but 27.5-point and 9.4-assist averages are nothing to sneeze at.

Murray, though, has been as advertised and perhaps more. The former Spur is averaging 22.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists. He’s among the league leaders in steals (2.4). He is converting over 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. His +6.8 plus-minus is easily the best mark on the Hawks.

He’s flat out awesome.

Thank goodness Herb Jones returned from injury last night, and Dyson Daniels in the prior game. Willie Green is going to need to rotate multiple grade A defenders in an attempt to stifle the Hawks’ guard duo.

If the Pelicans can corral Murray and Young with Herb, Daniels (yes, I’m fully expecting for him to see action considering the matchup), Jose Alvarado and Naji Marshall, they’ll put themselves in position to notch their fourth road win on the season.

The 2021-22 Pelicans didn’t earn their fourth away victory until nearly a full month later, when they upended the Mavericks on December 3.

This season’s team is an improved bunch. Let’s hope they continue to show it.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (5-3) at Atlanta Hawks (5-3)

When: November 5, 2022, 6:30 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, 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.