Game On: New Orleans Pelicans vs. The Orlando Magic

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Published: November 3, 2015

The Pelicans have had a rough start to the 2015-16 season. The Orlando Magic know the feeling. Both teams have started 0-3 and look to get back on track tonight at 7 PM central time in the Smoothie King Center.

The Orlando Magic

The Magic are coming off of 3 close losses to the Wizards, Thunder and Bulls. The double overtime game against the Thunder got the most attention, but all of the Magic’s games have been reasonably close. Their average margin of defeat has been a respectable 3 points. They are still a young and inexperienced team, but there are worse ways to go 0-3 (like playing the Warriors twice).

The good news is that the Magic are only shooting 29.3% from behind the arch, which has been the biggest defensive weakness for the Pels. The Magic, in general, have been struggling on offense. Still, they’ve got a couple of young and athletic guards in Oladipo and Payton. Both of those guys are still figuring out how to score in the NBA, but they can make an impact based of their athleticism. Frankly, given our depleted guard rotation, the back court match ups are the only thing that really scares me.

The other guy to keep an eye on is center Nikola Vucevic. He’s an efficient scorer and a good rebounder. His defense isn’t as strong, but the numbers say that he isn’t bad either. I’m really interested to see how the Pelicans try to defend Vucevic. Typically, I’d love the Asik-Vucevic match-up, but who knows if Asik will even play. That probably leaves us with the combination of Davis and Ajinca defending. I’d really like to see a lot Davis at center tonight. AD doesn’t give up a ton of size to Vucevic and slowing him down may be a big key to this game.

Magic Injury Report

The Magic are pretty much injury free (must be nice). Our old friend Jason Smith and C.J. Watson have both been on the injury report recently, but it looks like they are both good to go tonight.

The New Orleans Pelicans

Thankfully, we don’t have to play the Golden State Warriors, who destroyed Memphis last night, again until March. Tonight the Pelicans have a much easier task with the Orlando Magic in town. Still, these guys aren’t pushovers.

To get their first win of the season, the Pelicans will have to play better defense. They don’t need to be great, but they can’t let Orlando stay in the game by getting easy buckets. On offense, they need to just keep doing what they are doing. If  things click tonight like they did in the second Golden State game, the Pels should be fine.

We’ve been saying it all off-season. BUT, “It all comes down to Anthony Davis.” He’s probably going to get some tough defense from Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris and Vucevic, but that shouldn’t matter. AD will be the primary focus for opposing defenses the rest of his career. Tonight, he will often have a size advantage, and he will be the best player on the floor at any time. He needs to take this game over and leave the blender with a victory.

Pelicans Injury Report

Slowly, things are getting better. Ajinca is back, and Luke Babbitt and Omer Asik both played against Golden State on Halloween. It looks like they are on their way to being a regular part of the rotation again. For tonight, however, Babitt and Asik are both questionable.

Quincy Pondexter, Tyreke Evans, and Norris Cole are still out. Sadly, fan favorite Kendrick Perkins is out indefinitely with that pectoral strain. Get well soon, big Perk. Jrue Holiday is still on a minute restriction despite playing some extended minutes last week. Coach Gentry did say he didn’t want too much wiggle room with Jrue’s minutes and wants to be cautious moving forward, according to Brett Dawson at the Advocate.

Connections

The backup center for Orlando, Jason Smith, played in New Orleans for 4 seasons, and we all miss that pick and pop play. (Jason, we miss you. I still dream of that Blake Griffin hip check.)

Pelicans point guard Ish Smith actually played part of two seasons in Orlando. The first was during the 2011-12 season, when he appeared in 20 games. The next year, he played 36 games and started 3 for the Magic before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Projected Starting Lineups

Magic

PG – Elfrid Payton (2014-15 All-Rookie 1st Team)

SG – Victor Oladipo

SF – Evan Fournier

PF – Tobias Harris

C – Nikola Vucevic

Pelicans

PG – Jrue Holiday

SG – Eric Gordon

SF – Dante Cunningham

PF – Anthony Davis (2014-15 All-NBA 1st Team, All-Defense 2nd Team)

C – Alexis Ajinca

What to Watch For

  • Anthony Davis – He’s got to get going at some point for the Pelicans to have a chance, regardless of our injury situation. He’ll get some different looks, and he might draw a tough assignment on defense. But, come on. If he’s ready to be a top player in the NBA, he’s got to dominate these types of match-ups.
  • Team Defense – Statistically, the Pelicans have been very bad on defense this season, but the year is still young! I think the Pels could still drastically improve once they a) stop playing Golden State twice a week, b) get healthy and c) learn the system. Point a) is definitely happening. I’m interested to see if we see any improvement on point c).
  •  Pelicans Centers vs. Nikola Vucevic – We don’t know who will start or get most of the minutes at center with Asik questionable and Perkins out with that pectoral strain. Vucevic can be a tricky assignment. Certainly, that’s something to keep any eye on.
  • Jrue’s Minutes – This has been a debate for the last couple of days on Twitter. I’ve stopped caring, but it will be interesting to see how Gentry handles Jrue after some of his comments from earlier in the week.
  • 3 point line – As I mentioned above, the magic aren’t a good shooting team. There isn’t much excuse if the Pelicans can’t defend the deep ball.
  • Pace – It takes two, baby, to push the pace in a NBA game. This year the Pels have played 2 games against last year’s fastest team. The Magic are a middle of the pack team with respect to pace. I’m interested to see if the Pelicans fast pace has been due to their opponents or due to the system change.  It’s probably a little of both. My question is, when they play a team that wants to slow it down will they still be able to push the pace?
  • Offensive Rebounding – The Pelicans should hit the offensive boards hard tonight. The Magic have allowed a ton of offensive boards so far this year, and I want to see the Brow give us a big put back dunk.
  • Ryan Anderson – This is just a personal hunch. I feel like he is building towards a big game from downtown.

Mason Ginsberg will be handling the BSS twitter tonight, and he will have a recap after the game. You can catch all the action on Fox Sports New Orleans. Things will get going at 7 PM central time tonight.

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