Game On: Pelicans @ Magic

Published: November 1, 2013

Just breathe. Whatever the reason, there has seemed to be some fan panic after Wednesday night’s loss versus the Pacers.  The truth is, the Pelicans match up very poorly against the Pacers, who defend the rim extremely well and force you to beat them from outside.

Which brings me to tonight. The Magic are in the midst of a rebuild and offer a much different sort of matchup for the Pelicans. Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Jrue Holiday will now be attacking Vucevic at the rim, not Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi.  Vucevic is a fine player, but is not someone who will change games with his shot-blocking.

Pelicans Shot Chart versus Indy

Shot Chart

Here are my keys to tonight’s game.

1. Attack, attack, attack. The Pelicans went at the rim all night versus the Pacers but finished at a very poor percentage. The Pelicans should be able to attack the rim very successfully against a Magic team without an established shot-blocker. See that 35% near the rim in the chart above? Expect that to be significantly higher.

2. Contest jumpers. The Magic are a jump-shooting team. They feature some skilled bigs who can step out and shoot, and Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo are never afraid to let it fly. Jameer loves to take pull-up jumpers off of pick and rolls and that can prevented with good hedges from the bigs or by Jrue sticking with him through screens.  Nicholson has added the corner 3 to his arsenal and should not be left open. Vucevic can face up from midrange and should not be given too much daylight.

That said, there is no reason to over-contest shots. The Pelicans have a more athletic starting unit and should be able to limit dribble penetration. Jumpers from stagnant possessions without penetration tend to be less efficient and there is no reason to jump out at shooters and let them pump fake you and get easy penetration.

3. Eliminate stupid fouls. The frontcourt is thin without Anderson and Smith’s foul trouble versus the Pacers was a huge factor in the game. The Pelicans need Davis and Smith to stay on the floor.

The good news is that this is a favorable matchup for the Pelicans, as Jason Smith and Anthony Davis are very capable of defending in space and should be able to stick tight to their assignments.  Jrue should be able to pressure Jameer Nelson on defense and should enjoy a sizable advantage attacking Nelson on offense. Victor Oladipo was a phenomenal defender at Indiana and should be respected, and the Pelicans should also focus on keeping him away from the rim, as he is a remarkable athlete.

This is a very winnable road game and I expect a W tonight.


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