New Orleans Pelicans Preview: Pels’ Look for Edge versus Brooklyn Nets

Jan 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) dribbles the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans look to take advantage of a slumping Brooklyn Nets team, who has lost seven straight coming into tonight’s contest.

With only a few games separating the New Orleans Pelicans from the eighth seed in the Western Conference, every win means a lot.

They should have a great chance at one tonight, against the Brooklyn Nets.

Brooklyn has the worst record in the NBA at 8-29, which includes a seven game losing streak coming into this game.

Since December 1st of last year, the Nets have won just three games out of their past 20. Those three wins against the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Hornets.

The Nets are the worst team in the NBA in defense, giving up an average of 114.1 points per game. However, they do have a strength on the boards, grabbing 44.3 rebounds a game. That ranks 12th in the entire league.

Brooklyn certainly has some talented players, but are clearly lacking the playmakers and star power other NBA teams have. The Nets also have struggled from behind the arc, ranking 26th in the NBA with a 33.8% from deep.

Seems to have all the makings of a blowout win for the Pelicans. However, New Orleans should not take this game lightly. Twice in this season they have lost to a team on a seven-game losing streak. They lost to the Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers in those situations.

No surprise, this is a game that sets up really well for the New Orleans Pelicans’ star players.

For Anthony Davis, the matchup will be an interesting battle against Brook Lopez. Brook is a traditional center with a lot of offensive capabilities. He can post up and space the floor, exhibiting a bit of a mid-range game. Lopez averages 20.1 points per game, yet only five rebounds a contest. His presence on the glass has been a surprising weak point to his game this season.

For Jrue Holiday, he will likely be up against Isaiah Whitehead, with Jeremy Lin dealing with an injury. Whitehead is a rookie second-rounder, finding himself in a big role for Brooklyn. He’s averaging seven points and just under three assists a game for the Nets. While he’s not a stat stuffer, Whitehead is an athletic guard with great defensive potential. Still, Jrue can be a dominant figure in this game, if he takes advantage of the rook’s inexperience.

This game will come down to the Pelicans executing how they should, in order to win a game they need. Talent wise, New Orleans is the clear favorite. Brooklyn is lacking talent in many different positions and their record shows that. Still, they have NBA players and will give the Pels a tough out.

Brooklyn has the fire to win games. Of their eight wins, three are against teams currently holding a playoff spot. This is not a give-me win right off the bat. However, the Pelicans are coming off a fantastic victory against the Knicks.

Getting a rhythm on this long Eastern Conference road trip would be huge for the Pelicans’ push towards the eighth seed. The Nets are going through major struggles to find their team mentality. New Orleans needs to take full advantage of Brooklyn’s weaknesses to begin a streak of victories to build upon going forward.

Jan 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots against Brooklyn Nets guard Donald Sloan (15) during the first quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Who, When, Where and How to Watch

When and Where: The game will be played at 6:30 PM CST in New Orleans.

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

Injuries: 

New Orleans:  Quincy Pondexter (Left Knee) is out. Anthony Davis (Left Hip) is questionable.

Brooklyn: Jeremy Lin (Hamstring) is questionable. Trevor Booker (Hip) is probable.

Probable Starting Lineups:

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

Brooklyn: PG Jeremy Lin, SG Bojan Bogdanovic, SF Joe Harris, PF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, C Brook Lopez

Other Players to Watch: 

New Orleans: E’Twaun MooreTyreke Evans, Terrence Jones, Tim Frazier and Langston Galloway

Brooklyn: Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert, Justin Hamilton, Spencer Dinwiddle and Luis Scola

What’s Next for the Pelicans?

The New Orleans Pelicans will continue their road trip into Saturday, as they travel to Chicago to play the Bulls. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM CST.

Mar 10, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) tosses the ball during the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. New Orleans Pelicans won 111-91. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Key to the Game: New Orleans Pelicans Need to be the Enforcers

The New Orleans Pelicans are facing a foe that’s lost plenty of games in a row and looks lost on the court.

Familiar story?

This has been a repeating theme of some of the most disappointing losses on the campaign so far. New Orleans comes in off a big win, against a roughed-up opponent and can not find a win.

One of the biggest reasons why they fail on this is their style of play. The Pels’ focus has been on becoming a floor spacing team around Anthony Davis, that attacks in transition and looks to get running.

However, their play in these kinds of games has not shown that. New Orleans loves to fall behind the arc and fire away for most of the contest. While they made 12 of their 27 looks from deep against the Knicks, it is not something they can do every single game.

For the Pelicans to find consistent wins, they need to learn to become the enforcer. New Orleans only averages just over 40 points in the paint per game. They do not attack the basket enough to find easy buckets. This is especially true when the Pels find themselves leading late. Their offense stalls to try and drain clock, which forces them into uncomfortable plays that usually end with a forced long-range shot.

Two of the biggest surprises to this is Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Jrue and Reke have been known as players willing to go at the rim to collapse the defense, opening up the basket. However, neither has done a fantastic job at it this year.

For Tyreke, it’s injuries. He’s only been on the floor for around a month now and is still trying to find his game. He looks uncertain when driving to the basket and still has not found his rhythm.

Jrue, on the other hand, just seems more comfortable away from the basket this year. He loves running the pick-and-roll with Davis, yet does not seem as willing to go at the basket and defers to AD more often than not.

For New Orleans to win this game, they need to attack a team that has a major weakness in their defense, especially at the rim. While Brook Lopez is a solid offensive big man, his defense is not a strong suit. His 1.7 blocks per game is usually the only thing that stops opposing teams from scoring the bucket inside. When he’s not getting blocks, he’s usually caught outside the paint on help defense or not in good enough position to change the shot.

This is a game about asserting their dominant presence early on. The Pelicans have the better players in this game. Anthony Davis is on another level than anyone on the floor. He known no one on this Nets team can shut him down. Aside from Jrue and Reke, Anthony needs to be looking at the basket every single time he has the ball.

It is important to have this mentality at all times in the NBA. However, New Orleans seems to lack this right now. They lean their game towards their long-range shots and transition offense. For them to really develop into a winning team, they need to develop an enforcing mentality in the half-court game. The best place to find that is against the team with the most struggles. That is the Nets. Tonight is the night to find their aggression for the rest of the season.

Many will say this should be an easy win for the New Orleans Pelicans. However, the importance of actually getting this victory may go underrated. The Pelicans are fighting in a cluster of teams for the playoffs, to prove to the league they are on the right path. Beating teams they are better than is something they’ve failed to do well this season. Not only does New Orleans need this win, they need to how that they can evolve their game to threaten the league as a whole. If they can come out enforcing the game from the get-go and be the team commanding the floor, it should send a statement to the fans they are ready for the next step.

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