Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: 76ers at Pelicans (12/10/17)

by Jim Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Sunday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between Philadelphia and New Orleans (6 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):

3: Total number of Pelicans and 76ers players ranked in the top 15 of the NBA in scoring average, a trio headed by New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins, who is tied for fourth with Stephen Curry at 26.3 points per game. Anthony Davis ranks ninth at 24.9, while Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid enters Sunday in the No. 15 spot, putting up 23.5 points per game. 76ers rookie standout Ben Simmons has been an all-around force, No. 40 in scoring at 17.6, as well as 14th in rebounding (9.3 rpg) and fourth in assists (7.6 apg). Cousins and Davis are both multi-time All-Stars players in the Western Conference, something that seems very likely in the East for Embiid and Simmons in the near future.

4-3: New Orleans record vs. the East this season, the fewest games any team in the West has played against the opposite conference thus far. Although the imbalance between conferences has decreased greatly in 2017-18, it’s still important for the Pelicans to fare well against the East; they have quality wins against above-.500 squads Cleveland and Indiana, along with too-close-for-comfort victories vs. Chicago and Atlanta. New Orleans has lost to Toronto twice and Orlando once from the East. This category is increasingly important in December, because the Pelicans play seven of the next 10 games against that conference, including a three-game trip to the Southeast Division in the days before Christmas.

9, 20: Rankings for New Orleans in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively, which is almost exactly the opposite of Philadelphia’s placings in those categories of 18th and 10th. Disproving the general truth that young teams struggle on defense compared to veteran ones, the 76ers have been significantly better than the Pelicans at that end of the floor, despite entering 2017-18 campaign as the NBA’s second-youngest squad (New Orleans was the sixth-oldest). New Orleans is the superior offensive team, however, by almost exactly the same margin. As a result, the 76ers (13-12) and Pelicans (13-13) have nearly identical records and therefore not surprisingly rank No. 15 and No. 16 in net rating, with Philadelphia at plus 0.2 and New Orleans at an even 0.0, per