The Pelicans (5-5) have won the first two of their four-game road trip and are coming off a 96-90 overtime victory Saturday night at Chicago. Anthony Davis had 27 points and 16 rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins added 25 and 11 as New Orleans overcame shooting 40.2 percent by holding the Bulls to 35.4 percent from the field.
Saturday’s win and the 99-94 win over Dallas the previous night marked the first time the Pelicans have held opponents under 100 points this season. That is important because New Orleans can’t count on the “Twin Towers” to bail them out every time, even if they play well offensively most nights. New Orleans have split four games when both Davis and Cousins total at least 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Indiana (5-5) are back home after dropping the final two of a three-game road swing. The Pacers collapsed in the fourth quarter Sunday at New York, frittering away a 16-point lead in the final 10 minutes of a 108-101 defeat to the Knicks.
Nate McMillan’s team let all three opponents shoot 50 percent during the road trip, but the losses came when the Pacers themselves couldn’t get over the break-even mark at Philadelphia and New York after lighting up Cleveland at a 54.4 percent clip. Indiana are 28th in the league in defensive shooting percentage (47.7) and 26th in second-chance points allowed per game (14.4).
Three keys to the game
Boogie and The Brow on the boards - New Orleans are in the middle of the pack for offensive rebounds, averaging 9.4 on that end of the court. Cousins and Davis have accounted for 49 of the 94 offensive rebounds, but the Pelicans are just 14th in second-chance points (12.8). Given Indiana's shortcomings on that end, this could be a chance to settle less for jumpers and work the ball inside more.
Turner finding his rhythm for the Pacers - Pacers center Myles Turner made his long-awaited return to the starting five after missing seven games due to post-concussion symptoms. He had 15 points in 24 minutes, but was part of the group that faltered when the Knicks rallied. McMillan has yet to find out if he can use Turner and Domantas Sabonis together in a big lineup, but don't be surprised if he tries it out just to give the Pelicans something to think about.
Backcourt balance with frontcourt scoring - The Pelicans are at their best when they are not settling for jump shots. Jrue Holiday has gone 0 for 14 from 3-point range in his last four games and E'Twaun Moore has been little better at 2 for 13 in that span. The pair have to attack the basket early to soften up Indiana's interior defense for Davis and Cousins, and then the drive-and-dish Cousins does when he facilitates the offense becomes effective.
Matchup to watch
Anthony Davis vs Thaddeus Young - Young needs to forget about how Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis scored 24 of his 40 points in the final 13:28 on Sunday because Davis will have zero pity. The sixth-year forward has recorded double-doubles in all eight games he's finished, and Davis is shooting 54.4 percent overall. Young admitted he got overaggressive guarding Porzingis, leading to 3-point plays that fueled the Knicks' rally. This time, he needs to find that balance against Davis quickly to neutralize at least one part of New Orleans' dynamic big-man duo.
New Orleans Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG - Jrue Holiday | SG - E'Twaun Moore | C - DeMarcus Cousins | SF - Dante Cunningham | PF - Anthony Davis
Indiana Pacers projected starting lineup
PG - Darren Collison | SG - Victor Oladipo | C - Myles Turner | SF - Bojan Bogdanovic | PF - Thaddeus Young
Cousins has a triple-double as part of a 10-game run of double-doubles in points and rebounds against Indiana. He's averaged 24.2 points and 14.5 rebounds in that span, highlighted by a 48-point, 13-rebound effort in 2016.
Davis, meanwhile, has only two double-doubles against the Pacers, but one was a 35-point, 15-rebound performance with 5 blocks in New Orleans' win last season before Cousins arrived on the scene. Jrue Holiday could be worth a gamble as he's averaged 14.0 points and 8.0 assists in his last three versus Indiana.
Turner could be primed for a breakout game, as he's averaged 22.7 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in his last three matchups with New Orleans while shooting 60.4 percent.
The line has swung three points in Indiana's favor since it opened with New Orleans as two-point favorites. The Pelicans have covered just three times in the last 11 meetings between the teams and have dropped five of their last seven on the road against a home team with a winning record. While New Orleans have clamped down defensively in the first two legs of their road trip, taking the over of 218 points isn't a large leap of faith given Indiana like to play an up-tempo style and the Pelicans can pound the offensive glass since the Pacers have given up 63 second-chance points and 196 points in the paint in their first four home games.
Lost in the "resurgence" of New Orleans' defense is that the Pelicans played arguably the two worst offensive teams in the NBA in Dallas and Chicago to start this road trip. The Pacers are quite a different animal offensively and have scored at least 110 points four times. The Pelicans are unique in their own right by running their offense through a pair of big men in Davis and Cousins who have above-average inside-out games, but this game will come down to what their backcourt does and doesn't do.
Moore and Holiday need to hit from the perimeter to prevent Indiana's defense from doubling down in the low post, and Holiday will need to stay in front of Oladipo defensively since the Pacers haven't found their second go-to scorer in crunch time. Look for Indiana to get their passing game going quickly and then hold off Davis and Cousins down the stretch in a 118-113 victory.
This game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Indiana and Fox Sports New Orleans. Tip-off time is 7 pm ET.
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