The Pelicans surged their way into fourth place in the west with a ten-game winning streak, but since then have been comfortably beaten in consecutive games. The last of these was a 99-116 loss in Utah, which saw Anthony Davis put up a triple-double consisting of points (25), rebounds (11), and blocks (ten). The losses have seen New Orleans drop to fifth place, where they sit with a record of 38-28. The third-placed Trail Blazers are just two games ahead, but tenth place is just 1.5 games behind.
The Hornets (29-38) are in tenth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but won’t be able to make up the games required to push for a postseason spot. They are coming off a 122-115 victory against the Suns, in which they had secured a 22-point lead at the end of the third quarter before allowing Phoenix to fight back. Dwight Howard had 30 points and 12 rebounds, while Nicolas Batum played his best game in a long time with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Three keys to the game
Davis without DeMarcus - Davis’ late-season push for MVP has been nothing short of extraordinary. In the 17 games he has played since his front court sidekick, DeMarcus Cousins, went down with a season-ending injury, Davis’ per game averages are: 31.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.4 steals, 3.1 blocks. Good luck, Charlotte.
Can Charlotte stop the Pelicans from getting inside? - Thanks largely to Davis, points in the paint is one of the Pelicans’ favorite methods of scoring. They put up a huge 51.5 points in this way per game, less than only the Lakers. Charlotte are around league average at defending the paint, allowing 44.5 points per game inside, and they will need to be at their to keep the Pelicans out of there.
Travelling Hornets - Charlotte haven’t travelled well this season. Despite having a positive home record, they are 10-21 on the road, and have lost their past three games outside of Charlotte. Against an in form Pelicans side, they will need a major turnaround in fortunes to get up in this game.
Matchup to watch
Jrue Holiday vs Nicolas Batum - Neither of these players are the best on their team, but both play important roles. Holiday has been terrific this season, averaging 19.2 points on 49% shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 steals, and in recent weeks he has stepped up his play even more. In his past ten games, Holiday averages 24.8 points, 8.0 assists, 1.4 steals, and a block.
Batum had the first half of his season interrupted by injury and a little bit of bad form, but has been slowly working his way back to his old self. He has had at least seven assists in all but one of his past ten games, and his 29 point, 12 rebound, seven assist effort against Phoenix on Saturday was his best game of the season.
New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup
PG - Rajon Rondo | SG - Jrue Holiday | SF - E’Twaun Moore | PF - Anthony Davis | C - Emeka Okafor
Charlotte Hornets predicted starting lineup
PG - Kemba Walker | SG - Nicolas Batum | SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF - Marvin Williams | C - Dwight Howard
Davis’ career numbers against Charlotte are as good as against any side in the league. In 11 outings against them, he averages 26.8 points on 54.7% shooting, grabs 11.6 rebounds, dishes out 2.8 assists, while also contributing 1.3 steals and a huge 3.1 blocks.
Walker has suited up 13 times in his career against New Orleans, and in this time he has contributed 19.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists while shooting 41.9% from the floor. His 29.6% from 3-point range, however, is lower than against all sides except for Dallas.
The Pelicans have been handicapped 4.5 points in this game, and expect them to blow past this margin. Aside from a couple of hiccups in their last two games, they are playing like one of the best sides in the league, and Charlotte are not good on the road. Back New Orleans to cover this line.
The Pelicans will return to the winners’ list against the Hornets, further solidifying their place within the Western Conference playoff bracket. Davis will be too much for Charlotte to contain, and expect him to score in excess of 30 points while also playing a major role at the defensive end of the floor.
The backcourt battle will be important, with all four of Rondo, Holiday, Walker and Batum capable of playing high-level basketball. Holiday is in the best form out of all of them though, and will be another important contributor to the Pelicans. Behind Holiday himself and Davis, the Pelicans will run out relatively comfortable 118-109 victors.
The game will be broadcast locally on FSNOLA and Fox Sports Southeast - Charlotte. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.