It was the kind of game the Pelicans (3-3) envisioned when they acquired DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings last season: Cousins posts a triple-double, Anthony Davis turns in a dominant two-way effort in the low post, and guards Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore hit consistently from 3-point range.
The result was a 123-101 rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night as New Orleans shot 52.1 percent, made 13 3-pointers and the aforementioned quartet accounted for 110 points. The Pelicans have won three of their last four after an 0-2 start and opened a three-game home stand in grand style.
“I enjoy winning. Don’t you?” Cousins remarked to the Associated Press after totaling 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. “If we play like this on a nightly basis, we’ve got a very good chance of being the team we want to be.”
Orlando (4-2) opened a three-game road swing with a 120-113 defeat at Charlotte on Sunday and are playing on back-to-back nights for the first time this season. Jonathan Simmons scored a career-high 27 points for the Magic, who allowed 120 or more points for the third time already this season.
D. J. Augustin, starting his fourth straight game as point guard as Elfrid Payton remains sidelined with a sore hamstring, endured a brutal night as he went 0 for 7 from the field and struggled to contain Hornets guard Kemba Walker, who had 34 points and 10 assists.
Three keys to the game
Fast-starting Pelicans - The Pelicans are a strong first-quarter team, averaging 31.3 points on 52.1 percent shooting, including 45.1 percent from 3-point range (23 for 51). They have scored 34 or more points four times in the first six games, and another fast start against the Magic could result in another easy win.
Bounce back for Augustin? - Payton will miss this game, leaving Augustin to fend against Pelicans counterpart Jrue Holiday, who is coming off his best game of the season. Sunday was the first time Augustin struggled since entering the starting lineup, but he can ill-afford to let it happen again.
All is right with "The Brow" - After missing New Orleans' win at Sacramento with swelling in his knee following a collision, Davis showed no ill effects of the injury as he totaled 30 points and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes on Saturday. He's had double-doubles in all four games he's finished, and more impressively, at least ten defensive rebounds in all four games.
Matchup to watch
Terrence Ross vs E'Twaun Moore - Everyone knows the Pelicans are a good team when Cousins, Davis and Holiday are on their respective games, but the Pelicans go from a good team to an elite one when Moore is in rhythm offensively. After failing to score against Golden State, he has averaged 15.8 points on 66.7 percent shooting while making 11 of 18 from 3-point range in his last four games. That puts pressure on Terrence Ross, who has been struggling to find his shot and enters this game hitting on less than 30 percent of his attempts even after going 6 for 15 in the loss to Charlotte.
Orlando Magic projected starting lineup
PG - D. J. Augustin | SG - Terrence Ross | C - Nikola Vucevic | SF - Aaron Gordon | PF - Evan Fournier
New Orleans Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG - Jrue Holiday | SG - E'Twaun Moore | C - DeMarcus Cousins | SF - Dante Cunningham | PF - Anthony Davis
There is no bad option between Davis or Cousins. "The Brow" averages 19.0 points and 13.3 rebounds with seven double-doubles in nine games against Orlando and "Boogie" has gone for 21.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game with six double-doubles in ten matchups. Cousins, though, is the better stat-stuffer of the two with 3.5 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.7 steals per game.
For the Magic, Evan Fournier is the best option of the bunch, shooting 55.2 percent (16 for 29) and 53.9 percent overall while averaging 22.3 points to go with 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game to start this season.
There are a few positive trends for the Pelicans, who are 7-3 against the spread in their last ten home games and 4-1 in their last five overall. Orlando is just 2-7 against the spread in their last nine versus Western Conference opponents and 1-5 in their last six against the Southwest Division. The over/under quickly jumped five points to 227, and with both teams getting to at least 220 four times in their first six games, it feels like a strong play for them to get to that mark and hit the over.
This game will be a test of the Pelicans' maturity. There's an obvious letdown factor after sending LeBron James and the Cavaliers out of New Orleans with their tails between their legs, and New Orleans is facing an Orlando team playing its second game in as many nights. An interesting wrinkle is that Cousins usually sets the tone in facilitating the offense; he had four assists in the first 3:12 of Saturday's game. If Cousins draws Vucevic out of the paint, something that will happen since the Magic center has to respect Cousins' perimeter game, the Pelicans can get their drive-and-dish offense going with Holiday and Moore hitting from the outside. Look for the Pelicans to keep on rolling with a 128-110 victory.
This game will be televised locally on Fox Sports New Orleans and Fox Sports Florida. Tip-off time is 8 pm ET.
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