Boston Celtics vs New Orleans Pelicans: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/18/18
New Orleans are precariously sitting in eighth place in the west, and will need to put their best foot forward to beat the Celtics.
The Pelicans are just hanging onto their playoff position consecutive losses, the most recent of which was a 101-107 defeat at the hands of the Rockets.
With a record of 39-30, New Orleans sit in eighth place, just 1.5 games ahead of their pursuers in the Clippers and the Nuggets. They are, however, also just 0.5 games behind fifth place.
Boston, in contrast, don’t seem like they will move in the Eastern Conference standings for the rest of the season. Their 47-22 record has them in second, but they are five games behind the Raptors in first and seven games ahead of the Cavaliers in third.
Three keys to the game
Kyrie Irving’s health – The Celtics’ best player has missed the last couple of games with a knee complaint, and Boston have been a poorer side for his absence. He is comfortably the best offensive player on their roster, and they are significantly less potent at that end of the floor without him. He is questionable for this game but is viewed as a good chance to play.
Containing Davis – As with all Pelicans games, this is the single most important factor for their opposition. He is a constant 30 point, ten rebound threat, and can easily explode for significantly more than that. His ten block effort against Utah last week was a testament to his defensive presence, and if he gets off the hook, the Pelicans will be tough to beat.
Keeping the Pelicans out of the paint – New Orleans love to score inside, thanks largely to Davis and, earlier in the season, DeMarcus Cousins. They score 51.8 points a night inside, which is the second highest number in the league. Boston defends this area relatively well, with their 42.9 points in the paint conceded per game the eighth best in the NBA.
Matchup to watch
Anthony Davis vs Al Horford – Each of these guys prefer to play at the four, and will likely start in that position, but both will spend significant minutes playing center, with neither Aron Baynes and Emeka Okafor logging a lot of minutes. Horford is a smart defender and is equally clever at the offensive end of the floor. His 12.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists don’t do justice to the value he provides to the Celtics, and he was deservedly rewarded with an All-Star place this season.
Davis, however, is a different story. One of the most prodigiously talented players in the league, averaging 27.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.4 blocks this season. In the last few weeks, he has taken it to another level altogether, putting up ridiculous numbers including a 53 point, 18 rebound, five block game against the Suns, and a triple-double with points, rebounds, and blocks against Utah earlier in the week.
New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup
PG – Rajon Rondo | SG – Jrue Holiday | SF – E’Twaun Moore | PF – Anthony Davis | C – Emeka Okafor
Boston Celtics predicted starting lineup
PG – Kyrie Irving | SG – Jayson Tatum | SF – Jaylen Brown | PF – Al Horford | C – Aron Baynes
When these sides last met we were treated to an overtime thriller, and the Pelicans eventually prevailed largely on the back of Davis’ heroics. In 45 minutes of playing time, he scored 45 points, had 16 rebounds (including eight offensive), two assists, one steal, and two blocks.
Boston are underdogs in this game and have been given a three-point head start by oddsmakers. Despite the good form of the Pelicans, expect Boston to cover this line. The Celts travel well and New Orleans aren’t particularly formidable at home, so take Boston at the line.
This will be a tight game and one which should mean a lot more to the Pelicans than the Celtics given their respective places in the standings. Davis will, as always, put in a big showing, and Holiday’s form is such that he will be a key player, but Boston will sneak over the line in a nail-biting finish. On the back of some late minute heroics from Irving, the Celts will run out 112-110 winners.
The game will be broadcast locally on FSNOLA and NBCSB. Tip-off is at 6pm ET.