Game On: New Orleans Pelicans at Brooklyn Nets
Three weeks ago, this team was in a tail spin. Eight straight losses had fans and writers alike looking at the standings and calculating ping pong ball odds. Now, after seven wins in the last ten games, some are looking at the standing for a different reason. Some are thinking playoffs.
Now, playoffs might be a bit of a fantasy right now, but the idea that the Pelicans can continue to win more games than they lose is a legitimate possibility. The defense has been vastly improved over the last ten games, as they have gone from the 29th ranked defense over the first 39 games to a top-3 defense over the last ten. The pace has slowed as well, as the team has the second lowest pace over the last tend games. And Anthony Davis has been playing at another level over the past ten – averaging 22.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.3 blocks, and 1.8 steals per game.
Basically, the team has gone back to playing “Monty Ball” (good defense, slow pace) but for the first time since CP3, Monty has a superstar to help him win games. And now, the Pelicans embark on a three-game Eastern Conference road trip before the All-Star break, with Brooklyn, Toronto, and Milwaukee on the schedule. Once they return from their break, the schedule reads: New York, Charlotte, and Washington. Six straight games against the weak Easter Conference, and five of those six are under .500. Playoffs? Probably not, but some wins are likely. To get one tonight, they will have to do the following:
Keys to the Game
1. Protect the Ball
The Nets have been playing better as of late as well, and while some things have changed in minor ways, the biggest change has been the amount of turnovers Brooklyn has created. On average, the Nets created 15 turnovers per game, but in their last ten games they have created 19 and in their last five they have created over 21 turnovers per game. A lot of that has come from pressure from Shaun Livingston, who is playing great lately. Also, Kevin Garnett seems to be hitting his stride as well.
2. Get to the Line
Despite better defense, the one thing that the Nets defense is still guilty of is sending guys to the free throw line. Their defensive free throw rate is 29th, and it has actually gone up in the last ten games as they have gotten more aggressive. Reserve forwards Mirza Teletovic, Reggie Evans, and Mason Plumlee are foul machines. The Pelicans often lose the free throw battle by a large amount. Tonight, they have to win it.
3. Hoist Up Some Three’s
The Pelicans are 2nd in the league in three-point percentage, and the Nets are dead last in three-point defense percentage. Seems like a no-brainer. Morrow, Babbitt, Gordon, Roberts, and Rivers need to bomb away from deep.