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Season On: Pacers @ Pelicans (Ryan Anderson Out)
The Pelicans start their official on-court existence tonight, and I couldn’t be more amped up about it. For the first time since Paul left town, I’m tuning in free of a heavy feeling resignation and a dread of the inevitable. This team is different. It has players that have both skill and athleticism in the same body. There is no more settling for one or the other – and as such, this team could be good.
Tonight, they open with a nice test. The Pacers are coming off strangling Orlando in Indiana last night, and will now attempt to do the same to the Pelicans. They are uniquely suited to give a donut team like the Pelicans fits – as they have a physical specimen in Roy Hibbert and a skilled post scorer in David West to dominate the middle. The Pelicans will also rely heavily on attacking guards to get their offense running, and again the Pacers are built to counter that, with long and active perimeter defenders like Paul George, George Hill and Lance Stephenson able to funnel attackers to the middle where Hibbert can make lives difficult.
And make no mistake about it, Hibbert may not be a scorer, but he is a decisive impact player. His length makes it so he can always jump straight up and have a chance to alter shots. Big men foul players when they have to reach forward to contest a fall away or leaner, get off balance, and hack the shooter. Hibbert? He just raises a meathook skyward and the shot needs to change, because his fingers are waaaay up there.
That means the Pelicans are going to have to attack off the dribble, draw in Hibbert, and then freely move the ball so a secondary attacker can shoot or get a cleaner look. I’m not convinced that’s Eric Gordon’s MO. Tyreke and Holiday maybe, but Gordon may end up looking like poor Oladipo did last night. Attacking and being swatted over and over.
It’s a smart offense coach Frank Vogel runs – even if their players aren’t brilliant scorers – and he’s gotten his players to buy into it. George, in particular, is fascinating in the way he operates. He’s a star wing player, and in this league star wing players are supposed to have the ball in their hands as they destroy their opponents. If that was what was happening in Indiana, I’d be less worried about this game. It’s not. George is used most of the time as a secondary attacker – which is a roll that suits his less than stellar ball-handling. The hardest part of an offensive set is forcing that first crack in an opponent’s defense and exploiting it. Once that crack is there, it’s all downhill. Most of the time, George lets his guards and their superior ball-handling insert the wedge, crack the shell, and then he catches on the wing and destroys whatever poor sap is switching onto him during the defensive scramble.
To counter this, the Pelicans really just need to do one thing: Communicate on the pick and roll and don’t over-help. The Pacers are dangerous when their guards – George Hill, Stephenson, Orlando Johnson – get into the mid-range area and start sucking in defenders. While they aren’t tremendous scoring threats themselves, they then start to get angles to use dangerous finishers like David West, Luis Scola, and Paul George. If the Pelicans are collapsing multiple people into the paint on those PnR’s like they did last year, they will die under a barrage of threes, pump-fake drives, and set-shot jumpers. If they stay home and force those finishers to create for themselves, then the Pacers are going to struggle to score easily.
The Crowd will be rollicking tonight. This team, full of cast-offs, will be ready to prove they aren’t that – and it seems to me that’s a recipe for either the Pacers being thumped – or Indiana will open up strong, gut all that enthusiasm early, and the Pelicans will be the ones being thumped.
Here’s hoping for the former. Enjoy the game!
Update: The team announced today that Ryan Anderson suffered a chip fracture in the second toe of his right foot, and as a result will miss 1-3 weeks. Team doctors examined Anderson after he experienced discomfort recently during practice.
After the 7-1 preseason, the Pels are primed to prove that they're no fluke and definitely only going to get better. I think EG is desperate to prove that he belongs and it's going be a break out year for Anthony Davis. What better atmosphere than the first regular season game for our old but brand new franchise - THE PELICANS! I believe that the Arena (or whatever our new name will be) will be on fire tonight. Let's do this Pelicans.