Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Pacers - October 30, 2013
It’s here. A new era of NBA basketball in the city of New Orleans begins Wednesday evening, with a 7 p.m. home game against the title-contending Indiana Pacers. The New Orleans Pelicans open the 2013-14 campaign and a new page in franchise history by playing an official game for the first time with their new name and uniforms, in a renovated New Orleans Arena.
The NBA schedulemaker graciously allowed the Pelicans to launch the 2013-14 season in the friendly confines of their home building, but they will face a significant challenge on Opening Night. One of the clubs that has designs on dethroning the two-time NBA champion Heat, the Pacers took Miami to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2013.
Indiana (49-32 last regular season) is led by rising star guard/forward Paul George, as well as former New Orleans power forward David West. The two-time All-Star with the then-Hornets ranks among the leaders in franchise history in several categories.
Coming off an excellent preseason, the Pelicans (27-55 in 2012-13) have hopes of returning to the playoffs after a two-year absence. New Orleans had one of the most active offseasons of any NBA team, adding All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and shot-blocker Greg Stiemsma.
Among the team’s returning veterans, second-year power forward Anthony Davis looked poised in preseason to have a big year, while backup point guard Brian Roberts delivered numerous clutch plays in fourth quarters. New Orleans went 7-1 in preseason, with its only defeat coming against Miami, a game the Pelicans led through three quarters.
New Orleans would love to begin this chapter in team history with a victory over the battle-tested Pacers. Indiana is the lone Pelicans opponent in NOLA’s first four regular season games that finished with a winning record in 2012-13.
Anthony Davis vs. David West
Listed in the top six of many NBA power rankings entering 2013-14, the Pacers represent a major challenge for the Pelicans in their first-ever official game. Indiana swingman Paul George emerged as a bona fide star last season, while center Roy Hibbert broke out in the postseason after a sluggish start to 2012-13. Former New Orleans franchise cog David West has been just as steady and reliable in the Hoosier State as he was in the Pelican State, making the Pacers a threat to the Heat’s reign atop the Eastern Conference. Indiana took Miami the distance to seven games in the 2013 East finals.
George was little-known among sports fans when he entered the NBA out of Fresno State in 2010, but over the past three years, he’s ascended to All-Star status. The 23-year-old is a force at both ends of the court, a multi-dimensional offensive threat who also uses his athleticism and 6-foot-9 frame to terrorize ballhandlers and shooters. He earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2012-13.
On the rise
Pacers reserve forward Chris Copeland will turn 30 in March, but he’s only in his second NBA season after coming out of nowhere to make an impact for the Knicks in 2012-13. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Colorado product is a dangerous three-point shooter capable of putting up points in a hurry. He capped the 2012-13 regular season by racking up 32 and 33 points in consecutive games vs. Charlotte and Atlanta, respectively.
A weak bench proved extremely costly for the Pacers in their seven-game defeat to Miami in last spring’s Eastern finals. Indiana made several summer moves that should give it much better depth, however, including adding low-post presence Luis Scola and backup point guard C.J. Watson. A native of New Orleans, Danny Granger’s return from injury should give the Pacers another threat, but Granger is sidelined short-term with a calf injury.
On the sideline
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel has overseen Indiana’s rise from mediocrity to a team that believes it has a legitimate chance to win an NBA championship. Like Monty Williams, the 40-year-old Vogel is one of the NBA’s youngest coaches.
Did you know?
Three Pacers on the team’s Opening Night roster – West, Rasual Butler and Donald Sloan – played for the then-Hornets in New Orleans. Granger is a graduate of Grace King High School in Metairie.