Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Defending three-point line key for New Orleans against Brooklyn

by Jim Eichenhofer

The focus on an NBA team’s success, or lack of it, frequently centers on how it plays at the offensive end, but for New Orleans (17-16) and many other clubs, defense is a far bigger X-factor. The Pelicans have generated excellent scoring numbers on a consistent basis throughout the entire month of December, but their likelihood of winning is more dependent on whether they can stop the opposition.

Case in point: New Orleans is 11-3 this season when opponents shoot 33.3 percent or worse from three-point range. The Pelicans are also 6-1 when the other team finishes under 30 percent on treys. Those stats could prove even more relevant Wednesday night, when New Orleans hosts Brooklyn (12-21), which ranks third in the NBA in three-point makes per game (11.9) and second in attempts (34.4). However, the Nets are just 27th in three-point percentage (34.5), one factor behind why their game-to-game results tend to fluctuate wildly (wins over Cleveland, Oklahoma City and Washington twice, but home losses to Sacramento, Atlanta and Phoenix).

“They can get hot if they shoot that many,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said at shootaround this morning of Brooklyn’s heavy reliance on threes. “Not necessarily saying that they’re good shots, but if they take them, they’re liable to make them.”

New Orleans experienced that first-hand in January of last season, when Brooklyn registered a stunning 143-114 victory in the Smoothie King Center. The Nets made 15 of 30 three-point attempts, posting an unlikely road win for a team that entered with an 8-33 record. A few names have changed from last season’s Brooklyn squad, but current Nets players Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie were a combined 6/6 from deep in that matchup.

Other notes from shootaround in the Ochsner Sports Performance Center:

New Orleans turned in its second-best three-point defense game of the season Friday at Orlando, holding the Magic to just 4/20 shooting. On Saturday, the Heat were a bit better but still subpar, at 10/32 (31.3 percent). Overall, New Orleans held both Florida teams under 100 points, something the Pelicans had accomplished only four times all season prior to that back-to-back.

“Playing hard, playing for each other, talking,” Pelicans forward Anthony Davis said of his team’s defensive improvement on the weekend. “When we lock down defensively like that, we’re a tough team to beat. We were flying around, trusting each other.” …

Davis on this week’s homestand vs. Brooklyn, Dallas and New York, teams that are a combined 9-35 on the road and 39-62 overall this season: “We’ve got a great opportunity to win all three. We’ve just got to go out and do it. The first game coming back from the (Christmas) holiday is going to be a tough one. We have to have in our mindset that we have to put (Brooklyn) away, knowing they’re coming off a back-to-back, and they lost six out of seven. It’s a good opportunity starting tonight.” …

Davis on reserve guard Ian Clark’s 19-point, five-trey game Saturday at Miami: “He got his confidence back up. He was feeling it. For him to come out and play like that, it boosted up his confidence, and hopefully he can carry it over to tonight.”