Orlando's Chasson Randle takes a shot between multiple New Orleans defenders

Behind the Numbers presented by Entergy: Pelicans at Magic (4/22/21)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Thursday’s game at Amway Center between New Orleans and Orlando (6 p.m. Central, Bally Sports New Orleans, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM):

5: Pelicans players who sank multiple three-pointers during Tuesday’s loss vs. Brooklyn, the first time that many New Orleans shooters have hit two-plus treys in a game this month. After going through its worst three-point stretch of 2020-21 recently, the Pelicans provided a potentially positive sign by going 12/33 from long distance, with Lonzo Ball and Kira Lewis each finishing 3/6 from distance. Brandon Ingram and Eric Bledsoe shot 2/5 apiece, while Naji Marshall was 2/8. According to Basketball Reference, the NBA as a collective league is shooting 36.7 percent on three-pointers this season, approximately what New Orleans shot in Tuesday’s defeat (36.4). Based on that bar, the Pelicans have not turned in an above-average percentage since April 4 at Houston, when they were 16/37 (43.2 percent) and Ball drained eight three-pointers in a win over the Rockets.  

29, 27: Ranking among the 30 NBA teams for Orlando’s offense and New Orleans’ defense, respectively. Something has to give at that end of the floor Thursday, with two struggling units facing each other in Central Florida. Since the NBA trade deadline in late March, the Magic do not have a player averaging 15-plus points, with addition Wendell Carter Jr. leading the offense at 14.5 ppg in his 13 appearances. However, Orlando has been very balanced, with eight players putting up double-figure points, including Terrence Ross (14.2 ppg in 10 games), who made big shots in the Smoothie King Center on April 1 to lift the Magic to a 115-110 overtime win. A trade addition from Denver, Gary Harris is putting up 11.5 points in six outings. New Orleans’ defense has improved to an extent lately, ranking 18th in April.

10-2: Orlando record vs. New Orleans in the last dozen head-to-head meetings. The Magic have shown an uncanny ability to thrive against the Pelicans over the past decade, but some of the players who gave New Orleans the most fits – Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier, for example – departed in trades. It’s been 10 years since the Pelicans swept the two-game series against the Magic, last doing so in 2010-11. New Orleans capped a 2-0 sweep that season with a road win in Florida, behind Willie Green’s team-best 24 points. Dwight Howard paced Orlando with 20 points.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

NEW ORLEANS (25-33, 11TH IN WEST)

Tuesday loss vs. Brooklyn

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

Notes: This group is 15-22, intact for each of the past three games, part of a four-game losing streak. … Key reserve James Johnson is listed as doubtful to play Thursday. … Among 14 remaining games for New Orleans, three are vs. Golden State and one is against San Antonio (Saturday), the two teams currently in ninth and 10th place in the West.

ORLANDO (18-40, 14TH IN EAST)

Tuesday loss at Atlanta

Cole Anthony, Gary Harris, Dwayne Bacon, Chuma Okeke, Wendell Carter Jr.

Notes: This group is 0-2, losing vs. Houston on Sunday prior to Tuesday’s defeat. … Orlando has used a whopping 28 different starting fives this season. … The Magic are a half-game ahead of No. 15 Detroit (18-41) at the bottom of the East standings. Orlando has the league’s fourth-worst winning percentage entering Thursday’s action.

PELICANS KEYS TO VICTORY PRESENTED BY FANDUEL

DOMINATE ON THE GLASS

On paper, rebounding might be the biggest season-long advantage New Orleans has on Orlando. The Pelicans are No. 1 in the league in overall percentage (52.9), while the Magic are 28th in April and 20th in 2020-21.

DON’T TURN IT OVER

After making a series of trades at the March deadline, Orlando now has one of the youngest, least experienced rosters in the NBA, which sometimes makes generating offense difficult. The Pelicans need to avoid helping the Magic’s attack by committing too many turnovers, as was the case in the April 1 matchup, when New Orleans coughed up 24.

TRANSITION DEFENSE

Among his list of areas New Orleans needed to clean up defensively in Tuesday’s loss to Brooklyn, Stan Van Gundy emphasized running back on defense. The Pelicans must demonstrate more effort and energy to secure road wins.

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