Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Two major tests for New Orleans at home this weekend

New Orleans generally doesn’t hold gameday shootarounds when it plays earlier than the conventional tip-off time of 7 p.m., but with Indiana (21-11, sixth in East) and Houston (21-10, fourth in West) coming to the Smoothie King Center this weekend, the extra preparation could prove to be beneficial. After beating the team with the NBA’s fifth-best record on Christmas, the slate does not get easier for the Pelicans over the next week, featuring three straight opponents with winning percentages of .656 or better. Saturday’s game vs. the Pacers tips off at 6.

Other notes after Saturday’s morning shootaround:

Since Dec. 16, New Orleans (9-23) ranks No. 1 in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing just 99.2 points per 100 possessions. The challenge now is for the Pelicans to extend that elite performance over a longer span of time. Lonzo Ball helped New Orleans limit Golden State and Portland during the road trip by totaling seven steals in those games.

Asked what’s been the biggest factor in the team’s improvement, Ball said, “I think effort. I think dropping the bigs (back closer to the rim) is helping us too, and (Derrick Favors) getting back and being a lot healthier.

“I’m just trying to do my best to get to the ball (defensively) and get easy points for us. The whole team has. I think we do feel more comfortable, knowing that if we do get beat (off the dribble), D Fave is back there protecting us.”

Favors blocked seven shots during the four-game trip to Minnesota, Golden State, Portland and Denver. …

Ball on Indiana: “They play hard. They shoot the ball very well, play together and just overall are a good team, so we’re going to have to come together tonight.” …

On Friday, Jrue Holiday joked of facing brothers Justin and Aaron, “I’m pretty excited to win – I mean to play them.” …

Alvin Gentry on the Holiday family: “I know their parents have to be extremely proud. You have three sons and they are all playing in the NBA. That’s pretty amazing. All you need to do is meet the parents. If you meet the mom and dad, it really isn’t a surprise that their sons are where they are right now. They’ve done an outstanding job. It’s not so much the athletic part; it’s the kind of kids that they are. They also have created three really good athletes. It all starts with the parents. (Father Shawn) comes out (to the practice facility) and works out, and they’re throwing alley oop passes to a 56-year-old guy. That’s all you need to know about that. Their mom was a great athlete also.”