Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: NOLA aims to increase aggressiveness on defense vs. Indiana

by Jim Eichenhofer

Watching tape from Monday’s 133-109 home defeat to Utah could not have been a pleasant experience for New Orleans players, who allowed their second-most points in any game this season and saw the Jazz shoot 58.4 percent from the field (third-best by any Pelicans opponent in 2017-18) and 14/21 on three-pointers (66.7 percent, by far the highest from a New Orleans foe this season). But if there was one takeaway from the film that could potentially help the Pelicans (28-25) in the near future, it was the realization that they need to be much more physical defensively.

“Being more in attack mode on defense,” Pelicans reserve guard Ian Clark said of one team objective heading into Wednesday’s home game vs. Indiana. “We were kind of laidback and let (the Jazz) get into a rhythm, where they started making shots, especially in the first half. We have to be aggressive and disrupt some plays, get some loose balls, get some steals and get out in transition, and make our offense a little easier.”

“Being a little bit more aggressive, making them react to you, instead of us being always a step behind,” echoed Pelicans starting small forward E’Twaun Moore after shootaround. “We’ve got to go figure it out – which we did yesterday, we had a good practice. Getting into the ball more, be a little bit better rebounding – we’re struggling rebounding lately – those are two of the areas (needing improvement).”

As Moore noted, New Orleans has been outrebounded in four of the five games since DeMarcus Cousins was sidelined by a season-ending injury. Monday’s game was particularly one-sided in that category, with Utah boasting a 45-30 edge (though it certainly helped the visitors that the Pelicans missed far more shots than the Jazz did).

Other notes from Wednesday’s shootaround at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center:

Indiana’s All-Star guard, Victor Oladipo, is listed as questionable to play tonight. He missed Monday’s game vs. Washington due to illness. If Oladipo does play, Clark said the Pelicans “know he’s dynamic in transition, using his athleticism to get to the basket or create for everybody else.” …

Moore on the Pacers (30-25): “They have good penetrators, going to the hole off the bounce. We have to guard our man off the dribble. That will be a big key tonight.” …

New Orleans will technically move up to seventh place Wednesday with a win over Indiana (the Pelicans, Denver and Portland would share identical 29-25 records), but a loss drops NOLA to ninth place, a sliver behind the Clippers (27-25). Although the race is exceptionally tight, Clark said he doesn’t want to focus attention or energy on checking the standings.

“I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally, I don’t,” Clark said. “I know we’ve got a lot of games left. We need to take one game at a time and put ourselves in position to obviously be in the playoffs.” …

With NBA teams now 50-plus games into the season – but still not yet at the All-Star break – early February is sometimes referred to as basketball’s “dog days.”

“This is the toughest part of the season,” Moore said, when asked about this portion of the 82-game schedule. “We will have played 58 games when we go into the All-Star break. It’s definitely a grind. But there is nothing we can do about it. We’ve got to go out and keep playing. Mentally, just tell yourself that you’re not tired. That’s all I try to do. Of course, also making sure your body recovers as much as you can.”