Eric Bledsoe drives against Brook Lopez

Behind the Numbers presented by Entergy: Pelicans at Bucks (2/25/21)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Thursday’s game at Fiserv Forum between New Orleans and Milwaukee (8:30 p.m. Central, TNT, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM):

2, 6: Ranking among the 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency this season for Milwaukee and New Orleans, respectively. It shouldn’t be a surprise if the Bucks and Pelicans keep the scoreboard operator busy in Wisconsin tonight, because these are two of the league’s premier offensive squads. That’s been the case all season for Milwaukee, as well as each of the past two campaigns – the Bucks placed in the top eight both times and posted the NBA’s best regular season record. Particularly as of late, New Orleans has played elite offense, ranking No. 1 in efficiency during the month of February, scoring 123.1 points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com. Milwaukee is seventh offensively since Feb. 1, generating 117.6 points per 100 possessions. The old saying is “defense wins championships,” but this month nine of the top 10 offenses are sporting a winning record, with the only exception being 5-6 Denver. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has the third-best defense in February, but is only 5-9. At the other end of the floor in February games, Milwaukee is No. 7 defensively, while New Orleans is 29th.

8-3: New Orleans record this season when Steven Adams grabs double-digit rebounds, as was the case in Wednesday’s 128-118 triumph over Detroit, when the New Zealand native collected 15. The Pelicans are also 7-2 when the burly starting center pulls down six-plus offensive boards. In the first matchup against Milwaukee on Jan. 29, Adams turned in one of the best rebounding nights of his career, with 20 total boards, including 10 at each end of the floor. His 10 offensive rebounds against the Bucks were his most since Dec. 14, 2018, when he seized 11 for Oklahoma City in a loss at Denver. Adams is averaging 4.7 offensive rebounds in his 10 February appearances.

50.0: Milwaukee shooting percentage from the field at New Orleans on Jan. 29, but the Pelicans still prevailed 131-126. New Orleans is just 3-8 this season when the opponent makes at least half of its shots, but among those victories was the late-January triumph against the Bucks, as well as last night’s 10-point win against Detroit (the other: Jan. 17 at Sacramento, by a 128-123 margin). Milwaukee is 11-4 this season when it shoots 50 percent-plus from the field, with one of those defeats coming in a Dec. 23 season opener in which Boston’s Jayson Tatum improbably banked in a game-deciding three-pointer.

Previous game starting lineups

NEW ORLEANS (14-17)

Wednesday win vs. Detroit

Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams

Notes: This group is 12-13, reuniting last night when Adams (ankle) returned from a two-game injury absence. … This combination has logged 369 minutes this season, four times more than any other New Orleans lineup. The second-most used fivesome consists of 82 minutes of Ball, Ingram, Williamson, Adams and Josh Hart. … The Pelicans have only used six different starting lineups; the league low is Utah’s three.

MILWAUKEE (19-13)

Tuesday win vs. Minnesota

D.J. Augustin, Donte DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Notes: This group is 3-0, starting each of the past three games, home wins over Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Minnesota. Milwaukee has gone 3-2 to begin an eight-game homestand, being swept 2-0 by Toronto at its outset. … The Bucks are 14-8 when Jrue Holiday starts, but 5-5 in other games. This aforementioned group – but with Bryn Forbes starting instead of Augustin – has gone just 1-5.

Pelicans keys to victory

FOUR-WARD THINKING

One of the most interesting matchups across the entire NBA may be the duel at the starting forward positions between these two teams. All four players have been named an All-Star at least once, with Antetokounmpo winning league MVP two consecutive seasons. The Jan. 29 meeting between the clubs was essentially a draw offensively, with Antetokounmpo and Middleton scoring 54 points on 21/44 shooting, while Williamson and Ingram totaled 49 points on 14/28 shooting.

REPEAT FROM DEEP

New Orleans’ defense has allowed 20-plus three-pointers six times this season, but during their Jan. 29 win over the Bucks, the Pelicans turned the tables, sinking a season-best 21 treys. That also represented a New Orleans season high in attempts (48). The Pelicans are 5-3 on the road this season when they make at least 11 threes, but 0-7 when they don’t.

WELCOME BACK, BLED

Bledsoe played one of his best games of 2020-21 against his previous NBA team Jan. 29, when he shot 7/14 from three-point range and scored 25 points. That’s the second-most points he’s tallied this season (high is 28 at Minnesota on Jan. 23). Former Pelicans guard Holiday notched 22 points for Milwaukee Jan. 29 in the Smoothie King Center, but he’s been sidelined each of the past nine games, due to health and safety protocols. Holiday was listed as doubtful on Wednesday’s injury report.



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