Christian Wood grabs a rebound vs. Atlanta

Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Kings at Pelicans (3/28/19)

by Jim Eichenhofer

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

6: Blocks for New Orleans recent addition Christian Wood during Tuesday’s loss to Atlanta, which is tied for the most single-game rejections by a Pelicans player in all of 2018-19 (Jahlil Okafor blocked six shots in a Jan. 23 game vs. Detroit, as did Jrue Holiday on Jan. 29 at Houston). While Wood came to the Pelicans with a reputation as an excellent offensive player, averaging 29.3 points in 28 games with Wisconsin in ’18-19, it was his defense that may have most impressed in just his second New Orleans appearance. Wood’s six swats is tied for the 10th-most by any NBA player throughout this entire season; he also came up with three steals. His six-block, three-steal combination makes him only the fifth player to register those defensive numbers in the same game this season (the others are All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, local product Mitchell Robinson, Indiana’s Myles Turner and former New Orleans player DeMarcus Cousins).

3-1, 2-4: Home record New Orleans needs to finish this season with a winning record in the Smoothie King Center, plus overall record Pelicans need to avoid 50 total losses, respectively. There aren’t many tangible goals for New Orleans to achieve this late in a non-playoff year, but the club has a chance to secure a winning home record for the sixth consecutive season (the Pelicans were exactly 21-20 at home in both ’15-16 and ’16-17, despite not reaching the postseason field). To do so, New Orleans must win at least three times in its final four home matchups, hosting Sacramento, the Lakers, Charlotte and Golden State. For what it’s worth, in terms of overall record, the Pelicans have only lost 50-plus games once in the previous five seasons, going 30-52 during an injury-riddled ’15-16 campaign. New Orleans has won at least 37 games in 10 of its 15 full seasons (meaning 82-game schedules), but won’t do so this time unless it sweeps the rest of its six contests. The Pelicans are anticipating their 30th different starting lineup of ’18-19 on Thursday with Frank Jackson (concussion) expected to be sidelined, because every New Orleans first unit has included Jackson or Jrue Holiday (out for season after core muscle surgery). On the Sacramento side, the 37-37 Kings need to go 4-4 overall to post a .500 record for the first time since ’06, when they went 44-38.

3: Total number of players on the New Orleans and Sacramento rosters who are shooting over 40 percent from three-point range this season. Although he hasn’t played since March 6 due to injury, E’Twaun Moore ranks sixth among all NBA players in three-point percentage in ’18-19, at 43.2 percent, trailing only Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Danny Green, Davis Bertans and Danilo Gallinari. Meanwhile, Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (42.9) is tied for seventh in the league with Stephen Curry. Kings teammate Nemanja Bjelica ranks No. 26 at 40.3, one of 28 qualified players who are connecting on at least 40 percent of their attempts. Wonder why there is so much three-point shooting in today’s NBA compared to previous decades? One reason is that the accuracy has greatly improved. Compared to this season’s 28 shooters at 40 percent or better from beyond the arc, in ’03-04 only 15 players reached that level, with the vast majority attempting far fewer treys compared to today’s perimeter gunners.

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