The Pelicans are fighting for a playoff position, and at the moment are doing a pretty good job of it. On the back of consecutive wins, they now sit in fifth place in the Western Conference standings, and have a three game buffer over the Clippers in ninth.
The Mavericks made New Orleans fight for victory at home on Tuesday, and the game was tied at the end of the third quarter, but the Pelicans scored 35 points in the final term to run out 115-105 winners. They were ably led by Anthony Davis, who scored 37 points, and Rajon Rondo, who scored 19 to go with 14 assists.
The Pacers are in a similar position in the standings, albeit in the Eastern Conference. With a 41-30 record, they find themselves in fourth spot. On Monday, Indiana used a 35-21 third quarter to run out 110-100 winners against an in-form Lakers side. Myles Turner continued his good form with 21 points in the win, while Victor Oladipo dropped 20.
Three keys to the game
The Pelicans’ fitness - New Orleans must be feeling tired. This will be the fourth game in the past five days and fifth in the past seven, and all but one of these games has been decided by ten points or less. A majority of them have been at home, but the Pelicans must still be feeling the pinch after a gruelling stretch of games.
Turner’s form - Indiana’s surprisingly successful season has been achieved largely in the absence of Turner, who has been either injured or seriously out of touch for much of the year. He has turned things around of late though, and apart from a two point anomaly against Toronto last week, has scored 17 points or more in each of his last six games, shooting 61.4% from the floor and 55.6% from 3-point range in this time.
Jrue Holiday’s health - Holiday sat out yesterday’s game against Dallas with flu-like symptoms, and the Pelicans will be hoping he is back to full health as soon as possible. Holiday has been terrific for New Orleans, particularly during their recent run of good form. He has been scoring 20+ points and dishing out seven or more assists very regularly, and the Pelicans are a much better side with him starting alongside Rondo.
Matchup to watch
Anthony Davis vs Myles Turner - Davis generally starts at the four with Emeka Okafor starting at center, but Okafor rarely clocks more than 20 minutes, meaning Davis spends a lot of time playing the five. When he does, he’ll match up against Turner, who as mentioned, is returning to some good form. Turner is the epitome of a stretch five, scoring a large portion of his points on the end of pick-and-pops, but Davis’ long arms and ability to close out certainly have the potential to influence his shot.
At the other end of the floor, Turner’s defense will be irrelevant if Davis gets going, such is the talent of the Pelicans star. Davis is averaging 27.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in the month of March, after averaging 35.0 a game in February, and at his best, he can’t be stopped.
New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup
PG - Rajon Rondo | SG - Jrue Holiday | SF - E’Twaun Moore | PF - Anthony Davis | C - Emeka Okafor
Indiana Pacers predicted starting lineup
PG - Darren Collison | SG - Victor Oladipo | SF - Bojan Bogdanovic | PF - Thaddeus Young | C - Myles Turner
The one game played between these sides so far this season saw, unsurprisingly, Davis dominate. With ridiculous efficiency, he clocked up 37 points, going 14-for-18 from the field and 4-for-5 from long range while also grabbing 14 boards, dishing out four assists, and contributing a steal and a couple of blocks. In general though, Davis has not been at his best against the Pacers. He has faced them eight times, and in this time averages 18.9 points and 8.9 rebounds, both of which are well below his career averages.
The Pelicans are underdogs in this game, and despite their recent tough schedule they shouldn’t be. They have the best player in this game in Davis, and he alone will do enough to drag them over the line.
This will be a really close game. Both sides are similarly performed, and New Orleans’ home court advantage is probably offset by the difficulty of their recent schedule.
The availability of Holiday will have a major impact on the game, but as Rondo showed yesterday, he is capable of carrying the backcourt load on his own when he switches on.
This fact, combined with Davis contributing 30-plus points, close to 15 rebounds, and throwing Turner off his game, will be enough to earn the Pelicans a victory. They’ll run out 116-113 victors on their home floor.
The game will be broadcast locally on FSNOLA and Fox Sports Indiana. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.