Lonzo Ball looks to dish in the paint at Sacramento

Behind the Numbers: Pelicans vs. Kings (8/6/20)

by Jim Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Thursday’s game in Orlando between New Orleans and Sacramento (12:30 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, 100.3 FM, NBA TV):

215: Days since JJ Redick banked in a left-handed runner in the final seconds over Sacramento center Richaun Holmes, lifting New Orleans to a roller-coaster, Jan. 4 road win. That’s the only meeting of the 2019-20 season between the Pelicans and Kings. In a wild fourth quarter, New Orleans held a large lead before Sacramento mounted a surge and somehow tied the game in the final seconds, when Nemanja Bjelica converted a four-point play from the left wing. Bjelica was inadvertently fouled by Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, who briefly reached in, then tried to pull away, just before Bjelica dribbled into a banked three. Redick’s subsequent game-winner helped New Orleans overcome a 51-44 deficit in rebounding, as well as Sacramento shooting 12/21 from three-point range, capped by the timely Bjelica four-point possession.

3, 20: With the Pelicans and Kings spearheaded by young, third-year starting point guards and top lottery picks from the 2017 NBA Draft, you might expect that the Western Conference clubs would share a fast-paced style. That’s only the case for New Orleans. Led by Lonzo Ball at the controls, the Pelicans rank third in the NBA in pace – incidentally, they have slowed down slightly Orlando, moving them down one spot behind Minnesota, a non-invitee to Disney. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox and the Kings are just 20th in tempo, despite Fox being one of the NBA’s fastest players from end-to-end of the court. However, in dropping games to San Antonio, Orlando and Dallas during the NBA’s restart, Sacramento has played a bit faster, resulting in final scores of 129-120, 132-116 and 114-110, though the latter was in overtime. Ball said of NOLA's pace after Wednesday's practice, "I think there’s still another level we can go to, but we’re moving in the right direction. We know we’re at our best when we’re playing fast.”

22: Consecutive games Sacramento has tallied 100-plus points in a game this regular season, having last been held under the century mark in a 98-81 win at Chicago on Jan. 24. New Orleans held Memphis to 99 points in Monday’s victory, which ended an even longer streak of 33 games in which Pelicans opponents have topped 100-plus points. Prior to this week’s key victory over the Grizzlies, New Orleans had not kept the opponent under 100 since a 120-98 triumph over Indiana on Dec. 28. "We did a very good job against Memphis," forward Nicolo Melli said of the Pelicans' defense. "I think we played with a lot of energy and we executed our game plan."

The Pelicans are 10-0 this season when they allow fewer than 105 points, while the Kings are 7-15 when scoring less than 105. Efficiency-wise, New Orleans is slightly better offensively than Sacramento (ranked No. 16 and No. 19, respectively), while the Kings are a marginally better defensive squad (No. 18 to Pelicans’ No. 20 ranking).

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