Game On: Nets @ Pelicans

Published: March 24, 2014

Tonight, the Pelicans host the Nets for the only time this season, getting their chance to avenge their early February loss in Brooklyn in which New Orleans trailed 51-28 at halftime and never recovered. Fortunately for the Pels, the Nets played a tightly contested overtime game in Dallas last night, beating the Mavericks 107-104. Brooklyn isn’t exactly the youngest team in the league, so there is a decent chance that they will be affected to a greater degree than many other NBA teams.

The Nets have also been without Kevin Garnett for the past eleven games due to back spasms, and without he or Brook Lopez, they lack a reliable force in the middle. To make matters worse, versatile forward Andrei Kirilenko left the team’s game last night with an ankle injury. Brooklyn’s starting lineup last night – Shaun Livingston, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Mason Plumlee – would appear to support the notion that the team has little healthy interior talent, as backup big man Andray Blatche is the closest thing to a true center that they have left. As a result, it would not surprise me in the least if Coach Monty Williams goes with Luke Babbitt and Anthony Davis as the Pelicans’ starting front court for the second consecutive game after beating Miami with it on Saturday night.

Despite everything that I have mentioned which should negatively impact the Nets’ probability of victory, they are 10-2 in March, posting offensive and defensive ratings in the top 20% of the league in that span. This month, they are shooting above 41% from long range, resulting in the 4th best true shooting percentage in the NBA (58.2%), and are only allowing 31.4% shooting on 3-pointers to opponents. Brooklyn has also been quite successful at getting to the line in March, attempting .334 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, an average which would be 3rd best in the league this season if sustained. So what do the Pelicans need to do tonight to leave victorious?

  • Keep riding Anthony Davis. With no Garnett or Kirilenko, Blatche is the Nets’ best option to cover Davis, which does not bode well for the road team. Give AD the keys to the offense and allow him every opportunity to take control early.
  • Pay attention to the 3-point line on defense. The Nets are a bottom-5 team in the NBA as far as points in the paint go, and when that is coupled with the team’s hot shooting from beyond the arc as of late, it shows where the Pelicans need to focus their defensive efforts. Johnson, Williams, Pierce, and Thornton are all shooting north of 41% in the month of March. Let Davis patrol the middle, and make sure Brooklyn doesn’t get open looks from deep.
  • Control the glass. The Nets have been one of the league’s weaker rebounding teams this season, especially on the offensive end. Aminu may be a valuable resource for the Pelicans tonight to ensure that they win this battle. Apart from Blatche and Plumlee, the Nets don’t have much as far as rebounding talent goes, although Pierce has been very good on the defensive boards this season.
  • Protect the ball. The Nets force turnovers on 17% of opponents’ possessions, second to only the Heat in the NBA this season. If the Pelicans take care of the rock as well as they did against Miami on Saturday night (only 9 turnovers, which includes the game-ending shot clock violation), they’ll be in great shape.

Tip-off is at 7 PM tonight. Make sure to check back after the game for our recap, as we’ll be doing it a little bit differently than usual, and like always, we want to hear your feedback!

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