Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Cavaliers at Pelicans (1/9/19)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Wednesday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between Cleveland and New Orleans (7 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):

4, 30: NBA rankings among the 30 teams for New Orleans on offense and Cleveland on defense, respectively. Four days after the Pelicans rolled to 133 points against the Cavaliers in Quicken Loans Arena, the biggest challenge for Cleveland will be to try to perform significantly better at that end of the floor. Making it even more difficult on paper for the Cavaliers is that they’ll be at a rest disadvantage, having lost at home Tuesday to Indiana in a game that got tight in the fourth quarter. In Saturday’s 35-point New Orleans rout, the Pelicans shot a blistering 58.0 percent from the field, 14/27 from three-point range and 25/29 at the foul line, a rare 50/50/80 percentage night for an NBA team within the same game. Based on accuracy rate, it was New Orleans’ second-best shooting game of 2018-19, its third-best outing from beyond the arc and fifth-best results at the foul line. The 133 points represented the third-biggest output by the Pelicans this season (trailing only 149 vs. Sacramento on Oct. 19, and 140 vs. San Antonio on Nov. 19). Just about the only offensive area where New Orleans underperformed was turnovers (17), but it more than made up for that with tremendous all-around shooting in Ohio.

124.9: New Orleans offensive rating since Elfrid Payton’s return to the lineup on New Year’s Eve, which is No. 1 in the NBA during that nine-day timeframe. While going 3-1 featuring wins over Minnesota, Cleveland and Memphis, the Pelicans have averaged 124.9 points per 100 possessions, slightly better than Golden State’s efficiency of 124.7. Much like the way New Orleans began the regular season with its starting point guard on the floor during a 4-0 stretch, the Pelicans have been virtually unstoppable on offense since Dec. 31, ranking first in the league in both field-goal percentage (54.5) and three-point percentage (47.8). Pace is one area that’s been significantly different compared to Payton’s early-season appearances, with New Orleans ranking just No. 21 in tempo (98.75 possessions per 48 minutes) over the past four games, but sixth in that category over the course of the entire campaign. The only teams that have played faster in ’18-19 are Atlanta, Sacramento, the Lakers, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee.

17: Exactly the same number of different starting lineups this season for both Cleveland and New Orleans. Injuries have forced the Cavaliers and Pelicans to frequently shuffle their first units, with only Jrue Holiday (41) and Anthony Davis (36) starting more than 30 times for New Orleans. Cleveland’s had a bit more continuity by that measurement, getting 30-plus starts from Cedi Osman (38), Rodney Hood (34), Collin Sexton (31) and Tristan Thompson (31). However, the Cavaliers’ current injury list is lengthier than that of the Pelicans, including headliner Kevin Love, who’s only played in four games all season. New Orleans forward Nikola Mirotic (ankle) is listed as questionable to play in Wednesday’s game, upgraded from doubtful this morning. E’Twaun Moore (quad) is also questionable.

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