Game On: New Orleans Pelicans @ Indiana Pacers

Published: January 4, 2014

The New Orleans Pelicans (15-16) are in Indianapolis getting ready to play the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers (25-6). In addition to facing stiff competition, the Pelicans face that competition on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, while the Pacers have been off since losing to the Raptors Wednesday. In additional addition, the team is still without Jason Smith and may be without Ryan Anderson after he suffered a stinger in the squeaker against Boston last night while the Pacers have no one on the injury report, including the long-injured Metairie native, Danny Granger. (Ryno, we gotcha on the game banner . . . get well, dude.)

We’ll keep you updated on the status of both, but Monty was pessimistic earlier in the week on Smith potential to play on this road trip, and the situation with Anderson is new, so while pessimism may not the 100% outlook, healthy skepticism is unavoidable.

I have made the conscious decision in this preview to avoid the easy route, which is to verbosely say: “The Pacers are good.”

Instead, I’ll lay out some data on their 6 losses, which is really what we care about, and some general info in hopes of finding something to balance the negatives we all know are present and ubiquitous. We already know that the Pelicans CAN beat the Pacers, even without Anderson, since they almost did in Game 1, and it’s safe to say that the Pelicans have improved since then; of course, perhaps the Pacers have, as well.

Outpacing the Pacers

If you read to the end, you get treat, but he’s the short version:

  • Score more efficiently than the Pacers
  • Significant offensive rebounding
  • Positive turnover differential

In then beginning and in the end, basketball is just about making shots. That’s where it all starts. You don’t need to defend poor shooters, as the net result of them shooting 10 times amounts to more than an average number of empty possessions, which is like free turnovers that are never recorded. You can’t rebound a made shot. None of this is groundbreaking, of course.

I bring it up because each team that beat the Pacers (Rosey Bulls, Heat, Pistons, Raptors, Thunder, Trail Blazers) had a higher eFG% than the Pacers AND held the Pacers below their near-NBA-average average . . . Pacers: 0.504, NBA: 0.496, Pacers losses: 0.494, 0.473, 0.469, 0.466, 0.441, 0.424. Some of the opposing teams just BARELY edged them, so that’s a virtual tie, but you have to be at least as efficient than them to win, according to this.

This is in large part due to their DRB%, which is 3rd in the NBA . . . 0.764 . . . the Warriors (0.769) and Bobcats (0.767) surpass them, while the NBA average is 74.3%. The Pelicans, however, are 3rd in the NBA in ORB% . . . 0.295 . . . with the Pistons (0.315) and Timberwolves (0.297) besting them.

Uhhh, hello? Pistons?!

Yeah you right!

Sounds like another key to game . . . be efficient, but when you aren’t, be rebounding . . . extend those possessions . . .

On the other end of the court, the Pacers and Pelicans cause turnovers at about the same rate (TOV% 0.140 for the Pelicans, 0.142 for the Pacers), but the Pacers offense turns the ball over more (TOV% 0.122 for the Pelicans, 0.150 for the Pacers). The Pelicans need this to hold true or more.

The losses to teams most like the Pelicans, so not title contenders (at the time), were to the Raptors and Pistons, and the eFG% and ORB% both went in favor of the victors. While the Pistons lost the TOV% battle, is was by but a single turnover, and they won only by 5; the Raptors won that battle and won the game by 13, outscoring the Pacers by 10 (29-19) in the fourth.

Digging into the data actually affirms the observations from Game 1: The Pelicans can win this game. The bad news is the Ryno is a big part of the teams’ efficiency and offensive rebounding, as he is top 2 in these categories among Pelicans players averaging at least 24 minutes per game. They played well without him . . . at home . . . on fresh legs . . . with Jason Smith. Anderson being available will give them more than a puncher’s chance in this game.

Points and possessions all count the same, so the above may seem hollow at a glance, but the above shows the softest spots in the Pacers’ underbelly.

If Ryno does not play . . . then what? I’d like to see Miller get some quality time. He does not shoot 3’s as well as Morrow, but is above average on his career and may not be a bullet point on the scouting report. Opening up their stout defense with some made 3’s or just making them over and over again will both help the second unit. If Anderson is not available, I’m crossing my fingers for a career game from Miller.

Also, win the game and be tall.

Granger Danger

Some Pelicans fans have an abnormal focus on Danny Granger who has played less than 10% of potential regular season games since the start of last season. This is for at least two reasons: He’s from Metairie (which is a large unincorporated area adjacent to New Orleans), and a Gordon-for-Granger is thought by some to be a good and possible deal that would benefit all parties. Others are interested in him because some feel his presence would have stopped the Heat in last season’s playoffs and may do so this season. I’m not going to get into that, but I will address how he’s been doing.

He’s only played 126 minutes across 6 games (the most recent 6 games, and he got 22m in the Raptors game) this season. His shooting is down from 2, up from 3. His steals are up, and his turnovers are down, excepting the 5 in his first game (10 on the season). This is mostly a reflection of his playing more on the perimeter and less in the paint. He’s always had a game in both areas (and in between, but there’s been a shift away from the goal.

He’s not All-Star caliber, but he’s not playing like a broken down players either.

Pelicans fans may also want to know that Rasual Butler is alive and well in Indiana, and he’s been a scoring machine in his 80 minutes so far this season. Maybe we’ll see him if the Pelicans put the Pacers away early. Donald Sloan has logged 90 minutes for the team, as well.

The game is on at 6 p.m. CT (UTC -6) and will be broadcast on FSNO, 105.3 FM and the Pelicans radio network, FSI (for the Yankees), and LP.

Enjoy the game.

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