Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Orlando game a chance for New Orleans to correct previous-matchup mistakes

by Jim Eichenhofer

ORLANDO – It was only one game in late October, but New Orleans’ previous meeting against Orlando served as a microcosm for some of the issues that have plagued the Pelicans in the two months since then. New Orleans (15-16) committed 19 individual turnovers and allowed Orlando (11-21) to sink 16 three-pointers, two costly categories in a 115-99 Magic road win. The Pelicans rank in the bottom tier of the NBA in defending three-pointers, particularly against opposing bigs, and Magic backup center Mo Speights capitalized on that weakness by sinking six treys.

Friday’s visit to Orlando’s Amway Center is a chance to for New Orleans to show improvement in those critical areas, while facing a Magic team that likely will not have the same weapons available this time. Orlando’s Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross are all expected to sit out Friday’s game due to injury; that trio combined to tally 45 points in New Orleans on Oct. 30.

“Last time we played them, I think we had 21 (team) turnovers, so just cut that in half,” New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday said of one objective this time vs. Orlando. “Mo Speights had six threes, and (as a team) they had close to 15 threes. (We have) to be able to run them off the line and contain them off the dribble.”

Another aspect of the Oct. 30 defeat that has cropped up lately was a poor finish after a strong start. New Orleans rang up 64 points in the first half vs. Orlando, but only tallied 35 after intermission.

“We’ve just got to finish games,” Holiday said. “Obviously there are times when we have good spurts, but there are other times when it goes the opposite way. We’ve got to be able to sustain it for 48 minutes.”

Other notes from shootaround at Amway Center:

Due to a significant drop-off in defensive performance in December, New Orleans now ranks 29th in the NBA in points allowed per game (111.8), ahead of only Phoenix (112.8). The Pelicans know they must get those opponent point tallies down to have a much better chance of stringing together victories, particularly in their conference. Six of the top 10 teams in scoring average are in the West; New Orleans is just 9-12 in conference games.

“It’s pretty big,” Holiday said of his team’s need to get better defensively, “especially because teams in the West average so many points a game. To hold teams to 100 points is really big. That would make a world of a difference for us in the standings.”