Lonzo Ball glides in for a dunk at Brooklyn last season

Behind the Numbers presented by Entergy: Pelicans at Nets (4/7/21)

by Jim Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Wednesday’s game at Barclays Center between New Orleans and Brooklyn (6:30 p.m. Central, Bally Sports New Orleans, ESPN, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM):

2, 8: Ranking in offensive efficiency among the 30 NBA teams for Brooklyn and New Orleans, respectively. Two high-powered attacks will face off this evening on national TV, though both have been playing without key contributors lately, including Kevin Durant and Brandon Ingram. Among the Nets’ former league MVPs, Durant is expected to be back in uniform against New Orleans, while James Harden has been ruled out due to a hamstring strain. Even while dealing with shorthanded roster situations recently, Brooklyn and New Orleans still rank 10th and 12th, respectively, in offense since the All-Star break, with the Nets going 11-3 and the Pelicans at 7-7. Over the entirety of the campaign, Brooklyn puts up 117.2 points per 100 possessions (via NBA.com), trailing first-place Denver (117.3) by the slimmest of margins. New Orleans’ offensive rating of 115.0 is behind only the Nuggets, Nets, Jazz, Clippers, Bucks, Trail Blazers and Suns.

41.7: Opponent three-point shooting percentage in New Orleans’ 23 road games, a number that jumped again Tuesday after Atlanta shot a blistering 20/31 from beyond the arc, including going a historic 11/11 in the third quarter. The Pelicans’ percentage allowed of 41.7 in road contests is last in the NBA and relative light years behind even No. 29 Milwaukee (39.8) in the Bucks’ road tilts. New Orleans is giving up 16.5 three-point makes per away game, one factor behind why the Pelicans are 8-15 on the road. Fortunately for the Pelicans, the rims at the Smoothie King Center have been much less hospitable to other teams, with visitors shooting 37.0 percent from long distance. That places New Orleans’ three-point home defense at 19th in the league. When factoring in all 50 games played, the Pelicans are 29th in the category, a fraction ahead of Sacramento.

53: Days since Durant last played in a game, scoring 20 points in a one-sided Brooklyn road victory over Durant’s previous NBA club, Golden State, on Feb. 13. Partly due to him not playing in back-to-backs, Durant hasn't appeared in more than six consecutive games at any stage of the 2020-21 regular season, but the Pelicans will have to contend with the elite scorer Wednesday. During Durant’s three-year tenure in Golden State, the Warriors went 7-1 in the regular season vs. New Orleans when Durant played, but the one defeat was very significant for the Pelicans. On April 7, 2018, New Orleans held on to win at Oracle Arena despite Durant piling up 41 points, a critical victory in the Pelicans’ successful pursuit of a playoff berth. The squads later met in the conference semifinals after New Orleans swept Portland in Round 1.



Tuesday loss at Atlanta

Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, James Johnson, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams

Notes: This group is 0-1, becoming the 11th different starting five New Orleans has used this season. Eight of those 11 combinations have been trotted out exactly once. … The Pelicans are 1.5 games behind Golden State (24-27) for the final play-in spot in the West. The teams will meet three times in May, including a May 3-4 back-to-back in New Orleans. Head-to-head results will decide all two-team tiebreakers, because every NBA intraconference series in 2020-21 consists of three games.


Monday win vs. New York

Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Jeff Green, LaMarcus Aldridge

Notes: This group is 1-0, the 26th different starting five Brooklyn has used this season. Only one combination has been relied upon more than four times, with the grouping of Irving, Harden, Harris, Bruce Brown and DeAndre Jordan going 10-2. … Aldridge has started each of the past three games, with the Nets beating Charlotte and New York, but losing at Chicago. … Brooklyn has the same record as Philadelphia atop the East, meaning the Nets can take a half-game edge tonight over the idle 76ers. Philadelphia’s next game is Friday at New Orleans.



Given New Orleans’ injuries and depleted roster, the last thing it needs is to add in-game foul trouble to the list of concerns, but personals plagued Johnson in Tuesday’s loss at Atlanta, limiting him to 26 minutes in a starting role. Brooklyn presents its own set of defensive challenges with some of the game’s premier one-on-one scorers, ranking in the top 10 of the NBA in free throws made per game (17.8), attempts (22.3) and percentage at the foul line (79.9).


It had been 14 months since Isaiah Thomas last played in an NBA game prior to Tuesday’s appearance in Atlanta, but there is no grace period for the 10-day signee to gradually get acclimated. The Pelicans need him to play well and produce immediately, because he was their only guard off the bench against the Hawks, due to injuries to Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr.


An arrival to New York City in the wee hours of the morning Wednesday was unavoidable given a 7:30 p.m. Eastern tip-off in Atlanta and a flight from the Peach State to the Empire State. The Pelicans need to be ready to play against one of the NBA’s best teams to have a chance to post a winning record on a circuitous three-game road trip.

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