Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Pelicans at 76ers (2/9/18)
A look at three key numbers related to Friday’s game at the Wells Fargo Center between New Orleans and Philadelphia (6 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):
20: Due to Wednesday’s unfortunate series of events and postponement vs. Indiana in the Smoothie King Center, the focus of attention ultimately was on SMG officials, instead of what would’ve likely been the big news of the evening: the elevation of DeAndre Liggins into the New Orleans starting lineup. Liggins, who’s made 20 previous starts over a five-year career, saw his debut as a Pelicans starter delayed by 48 hours; Alvin Gentry confirmed Thursday after practice that he’ll stick with Liggins as a first-stringer in Philadelphia. Liggins will join point guard Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore in what’s essentially a three-guard alignment, with Nikola Mirotic and Anthony Davis up front. The 6-foot-6 defensive specialist’s move to the starting group could have a positive impact at that end of the floor. New Orleans has also struggled mightily to open second halves recently, so a shakeup may be beneficial.
22: New Orleans rank (out of 30 NBA teams) in defensive efficiency during its recent 1-4 stretch without DeMarcus Cousins. The Pelicans are allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com, during that span, which coincidentally is just a sliver better than 23rd-ranked and trade deadline-revamped Cleveland (also listed at 110.5 since Jan. 28). New Orleans has now unexpectedly had four days to ponder its Monday one-sided home defeat to Utah, in which the Jazz piled up 133 points and went 14/21 from three-point range. With Cousins out for the remainder of the season, the Pelicans (28-25) must play significantly better defense to give themselves a chance to be more competitive and improve their playoff position (currently eighth in Western Conference, but only half of a game ahead of the ninth-place Clippers (27-25).
2: Games Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has played in his career against New Orleans, both last season. The energetic center is listed as questionable for Friday’s game vs. the Pelicans, due to an ankle problem, according to 76ers broadcaster Marc Zumoff. Embiid sat out a Dec. 10 visit to New Orleans due to an injury, but Philadelphia was very competitive without him, building a 95-87 lead through three quarters. In the fourth period, the host Pelicans took over, outscoring the Sixers by a 44-29 margin, turning an eight-point deficit into a seven-point win. In fairly low total minutes (52), Embiid averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds vs. New Orleans during his rookie season of 2016-17.