Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: New Orleans-Miami a contrast in styles

by Jim Eichenhofer

A season-long effort to push the pace and make the New Orleans Pelicans a faster, more attacking offensive team has largely been successful: Through 57 games, they’re the NBA’s third-ranked team in tempo, averaging 102.08 possessions per 48 minutes. Since DeMarcus Cousins was sidelined by injury Jan. 26, that number has increased to 105.24 possessions, which is No. 1 in the league during that timeframe.

Friday’s guest in the Smoothie King Center has used a much different approach. While New Orleans (31-26) is the NBA’s third-fastest club, Miami (30-28) is the third-slowest. The Heat rely on a methodical style that may not always be aesthetically pleasing, but opponents never doubt the Southeast Division’s team’s nightly effort.

“They play very hard on defense and offense,” Pelicans forward/guard E’Twaun Moore said after Friday’s shootaround. “They crash the boards and are real scrappy. Matching their energy will be most important.”

“Matching their intensity – they play really hard,” reserve forward Darius Miller said of a key for New Orleans. “Playing good defense again – we’ve got to keep that up – and definitely trying to push the pace a little bit (is important).”

In a Dec. 23 matchup between the teams in Florida, the tempo was much more to Miami’s liking (pace of 88.0 possessions per 48 minutes), but New Orleans authored a stingy defensive performance, holding the Heat to just 94 points and 42 percent shooting from the field. The Pelicans won despite playing their slowest-paced game of the entire 2017-18 regular season, but want to get up and down the floor much more in Friday’s rematch.

“Playing with a lot of pace, continue to play hard and move the ball,” Miller said of a focus as the Pelicans open the second half of the campaign. “I think we’ve done a really good job of playing off of each other and sharing the floor. Hopefully we continue that.

“I think (playing fast) will help all of us get open shots, open looks. We push the pace and have a lot of guys who pass the ball and make plays.” …

Other notes after shootaround in the Ochsner Sports Performance Center:

Moore is only a dozen minutes shy of setting his career high for total minutes played in a single season. His previous high was 1,820 during his first season with the Pelicans, but his role has increased substantially since being elevated to a full-time starter in ’17-18. Moore said the weeklong All-Star break came at a good time for him.

“I definitely used that time wisely. It was definitely a great break for me,” he said. “We’ll see how great it was when we come back for this game tonight. I definitely liked that break and it helped me out to feel a lot better coming into the second half of the season.” …

Like Moore, Miller has been relied upon by an NBA team more than ever this season. The fourth-year NBA veteran has nearly doubled his single-season career high for minutes, already logging 1,320 (he played 723 in ’13-14 with the Pelicans).

“I feel good, but it’s definitely tough,” Miller said of adjusting to his major workload, after playing a much shorter schedule in Germany the past three seasons. “This is my first time going through this, really. I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously I’ve played an NBA season before, but not with this amount of minutes. It’s definitely difficult, but after the break, I feel really good.” …

With a win Friday, New Orleans could move from eighth to sixth in the Western Conference, depending on other results. The race is so tight that a loss might mean the Pelicans drop to ninth. Every West team in current sixth through 10th place is in action Friday.