New Orleans Pelicans Preview: Pelicans Face Off Against Suns

Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reaches for the loose ball in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The New Orleans Pelicans won 120 - 119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reaches for the loose ball in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The New Orleans Pelicans won 120 – 119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (19-32) will look to snap a four-game losing streak back at home, as they face off with the Phoenix Suns (16-35).

It has been a tough sledding for the New Orleans Pelicans on their recent road trip.

New Orleans is sporting a four-game losing streak, including three straight losses away from their home turf. Their 6-18 record on the road is one that has haunted them mightily this season.

Luckily for the Pelicans, they will get to head back home for tonight’s battle with another struggling Western Conference team in the Phoenix Suns.

Phoenix currently owns the second worst record in the NBA. They have currently one just a single game of their past seven contests, that being against the Sacramento Kings.

The Suns are a pretty solid team on the scoring front and on the glass. Phoenix currently averages 106.6 points per contest, which is the 11th best scoring offense in the league. They also 44.3 rebounds a game, tied with the Pelicans for 7th in the NBA. The Suns love to depend on their youth and speed to score and get up for the boards.

The Phoenix Suns have had major problems moving the ball this season, averaging the least amount of assists per game at 18.3. They also hold the second worst scoring defense in the NBA, giving up 112.6 points per contest. This is a team without a true floor general and a young team in need of defensive discipline.

Phoenix is a work in progress. While they have plenty of exciting pieces on their team, it is unsure which ones are in the long term plan and which ones are likely to be shifted later on. They have been a common occurrence in trade rumors, but no one truly knows what their long term plan is, or if they have one as of yet.

For New Orleans, this is a game they desperately need for more than just another win. This is a team sliding farther and farther behind the pack of West teams in the “Race for Eighth”. They look out of sorts, especially closing out games. Talent wise, they are likely better than the Suns. However, they need to show it for 48 minutes on the floor.

For Anthony Davis, he will likely battle an old New Orleans’ favorite in Tyson Chandler. Tyson can be a gauntlet to handle inside, as he’s averaging 11.8 rebounds and 8.6 points per game. His 7’1″ stature may make it difficult for Davis and others to get into the paint regularly. Anthony will likely need his mid-range jumper to be on, in order to push Chandler out of the paint and open the floor up for his team.

In the case of Jrue Holiday, he will be matched up with Eric Bledsoe. This will be a good test for him, after struggling to deal with the speed of John Wall two nights ago. Bledsoe is an athletic beast, who is quick to attack.

Unlike Wall, his passing is not a strong suit, as he averages just 6.2 assists per game. Holiday should attack his dribble as well, as Eric averages 3.2 turnovers a contest. It’s a matchup against a poor man’s Wall, which Jrue should know very well. If he can learn from his mistakes two nights ago, he could be in for a monster game.

The Pelicans won the last time these two teams played in overtime 120-119. The teams are currently tied 1-1 in their season series and will play each other today and next Monday, to close out their matchups.

This game will come down to which team gets their offense going. Both play a high-tempo style of basketball, that relies on their shooters making their shots. If the Pelicans want to win this game, they need to shoot well, but also have strong transition defense to boot. Too many times in their losing streak, they left shooters behind the three-point line wide open. They can not do that, against a Suns team with weapons like Devin Booker.

Phoenix wants the same thing as New Orleans tonight: To open up the floor.

The Pelicans just have to show the Suns that they are the better team at that style of game. Simple as that.

Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) handles the ball against Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) handles the ball against Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Who, When and How to Watch

When and Where: The game will be played at 7:00 PM CST in New Orleans.

How To Watch: The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports New Orleans and NBA League Pass.

Injuries: 

New OrleansQuincy Pondexter (Left Knee) is out.

Phoenix: Dragan Bender (Ankle) is doubtful.

Probable Starting Lineups:

New Orleans: PG Jrue Holiday, SG Buddy Hield, SF Solomon Hill, PF Dante Cunningham, C Anthony Davis

Phoenix: PG Eric Bledsoe, SG Devin Booker, SF T.J. Warren, PF Marquese Chriss, C Tyson Chandler

Other Players to Watch: 

New Orleans: E’Twaun MooreTyreke Evans, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Langston Galloway

Phoenix: Brandon Knight, P.J. Tucker, Alex Len, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley

What’s Next for the Pelicans?

The New Orleans Pelicans will stay home for their final contest at the Smoothie King Center before the NBA All-Star Break. They will have a tough battle, as they’ll face the mighty Utah Jazz Wednesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.

Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reaches for the ball in front of New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The New Orleans Pelicans won 120 - 119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reaches for the ball in front of New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The New Orleans Pelicans won 120 – 119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Key to the Game: Shut Down the Guards and Three-Point Shooters

The New Orleans Pelicans will battle a team that can most certainly score the basketball.

However, the Suns’ scoring is heavily from their backcourt.

Guards Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Brandon Knight account for 53.8 out of their 106.6 points per game. That’s over half their scoring output, from their three guards. Only one non-guard is averaging over 10 points a contest for Phoenix, that being T.J. Warren’s 13.1 points per contest.

Plain and simply, the key to shutting down the Suns is to shut down their guards.

Phoenix relies highly on their guards to attack the basket with authority. Knight and Bledsoe are known for their athletic ability to cut through the defense and finish at the rim. Their young star guard in Booker is starting to develop that same skill as well.

The other major stat New Orleans could look to use to their advantage is the three-point shooting of the Suns. Phoenix is one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA from behind the arc, averaging just 34.7% from three-point land.

It sets up the gameplan for the Pelicans to walk off their home court tonight with a win.

For New Orleans to take advantage of the Suns’ guard dominance, they need a strong front in the paint. Anthony Davis’ help defense needs to be on point, while Jrue Holiday and the shooting guards need to shut down the dribble drives of Phoenix’s guards.

The Pelicans have not had the most success against the quicker and physically stronger guards in the league. That especially is true with Buddy Hield, who has been abused when he’s on defense. This will likely be a big game for E’Twaun Moore, who will be asked to guard Booker more often than not.

This will also be a tall task for Tyreke Evans, who has been getting major minutes of late. His reckless abandon on offense has left the Pelicans vulnerable in transition defense. It will be a key for him to get back and play strong defense.

Terrence Jones and the other smaller wings of the Pelicans will need to play constant help defense off drives, yet not too far to leave the shooters open outside the three-point line. It’s a tough double-edge sword, but New Orleans has to find a doable common ground, in order to beat the Suns.

This is a big contest, for a team that is struggling to find any momentum. A game against one of the teams struggling more than they are is a nice change of pace, especially at home. If the New Orleans Pelicans can execute a gameplan, to leave Phoenix in uncomfortable spots on offense, they can get a much needed win. If not, their hopes of salvaging their season will likely fall out of reach.

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