The New Orleans Pelicans remain out of the Western Conference playoff picture, albeit a tremendous campaign thus far from superstar Anthony Davis. Davis has been sidelined with a toe injury for three straight games, leaving his team floundering without him. At (20-21) New Orleans’ playoff hopes are gradually slipping away, especially after losses to the lowly New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers in the span of four days. Management’s commitment to the current roster is all but definite, so keep an eye on the Pelicans approaching the March 1st Trade Deadline.
Frontcourt: Standing at a solid seven feet tall, Omer Asik remains a problem predominantly on the defensive end of the floor. The 5th-year-man from Turkey dominates the boards, hauling down 10.2 rebounds per game this season including a notable 3.6 coming on the offensive glass. Offensive rebounding is key to Asik’s production as the vast majority of his points come from second chance opportunities. Asik will undoubtedly be in demand when he hits the free agent market in the summer, as he has proven to be a consummate companion to play alongside Anthony Davis. Head coach Monty Williams seldom runs a play for Asik hence his low, efficient 7.2 points per game.
Davis is listed as questionable for Wednesday night’s contest because of a sprained left toe suffered about a week ago. It’s tough to put Davis’ impact into context since his rare ability to impact every facet of the game is frankly absent in today’s NBA. The prototypical example of a gamer, Davis’s knack for defending all positions has easily carried over into his professional career, blocking nearly three shots per game. Growing up, Davis played point guard until he hit a growth spurt causing him to sprout to 6-foot-10. Often times, Davis resorts back to his point guard days, dribbling the ball coast-to-coast to set his teammates up for buckets. It’s a truly breathtaking experience to watch such a young star dominate the game the way he has in his brief three-year career. At a mere 21-years-old, Davis’ has yet to reach his peak potential so buckle down for the havoc the power forward is about to wreak in the near future.
The supposed heir to LeBron James’ throne, Tyreke Evans has failed to live up to the sky high expectations bestowed upon him when he was selected fourth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. Although Evans will evidently never fulfill those monstrous expectations, he has put together a fine career for himself. His production vastly fluctuated with the Sacramento Kings, partially due to the unstable environment at the time. Immediately when he became eligible for a new contract, Evans scurried to New Orleans where he has successfully reinvented his lost career. The swingman is averaging a quality 17.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, while shouldering much of the scoring burden when his teammates are often out with injury.
Through all of the trade speculation and adversity, Eric Gordon has seemingly revived his dwindling career since returning from a lengthy injury hiatus earlier this month. Gordon is certainly miles away from replicating the rising star potential he exhibited with the Los Angeles Clippers, but he has definitely taken a giant leap. In Los Angeles, Gordon displayed an array of deadly offensive moves. He would drive to the basket with the craftiness of a James Harden, but would finish with the sheer explosiveness of a DeMar Derozan. Unfortunately, injuries wrecked the early stages of Gordon’s career. At just 26-years-old, though, the Indiana native is well worth taking a gamble on if he is in fact traded as the rumors suggest.
In retrospect, New Orleans’ roster would ideally contain Elfrid Payton and Nerlens Noel rather than Jrue Holiday. Poor judgment mixed with the destructive win now mentality resulted in an epic failure by losing out on two tremendously talented young players. The Pelicans drafted Noel sixth overall 2013, traded him along with their 2014 number one (10th overall) pick buying high on Holiday who was coming off an All-Star season. Holiday has performed well for New Orleans, but has struggled to stay healthy missing a total of 52 games out of a possible 123. Like Davis, Holiday is listed as questionable for Wednesday night’s game with an ankle injury. When he is on the court, though, Holiday strings together flashes of brilliance with subpar performances despite averaging 15.2 points and 7.1 assists per game. If this team plans on competing in the deep Western Conference, Holiday must be healthy to develop that familiarity complex with his teammates.
Keys To Victory: Interior Defense: New Orleans is a very poor outside shooting team, so if the Lakers shut down the paint, stopping the Pelicans is fairly easy. But there is somebody named Anthony Davis lurking the paint constantly, so this task is much easier said than done. Ed Davis must make a concerted effort to glue himself to Anthony Davis early on and continue to shadow him throughout the entirety of the game.
Creating For Others: Without a true point guard, the Lakers tend to overlook the cliche phrase of “sharing the sugar”. Far too often is Los Angeles playing isolation basketball, predominantly with both Nick Young and Jeremy Lin on the floor. Kobe Bryant’s status is still unknown, but either way Byron Scott must emphasize ball movement.
A Quick Start: No matter the opponent, Los Angeles never seems to jump out to an early lead. In full stride, the Lakers’ offense is undoubtedly capable of lighting up the scoreboard and this was proven in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game versus the Phoenix Suns. However, this team is always playing catch up late in games, ultimately leading to the pitiful (12-30) record. The Lakers need to start fast tonight and get ahead of the Pelicans early.
New Orleans Pelicans (20-21) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (12-30)
5:00 PM PST, January 21, 2015
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Pelicans Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Tyreke Evans
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Omer Asik
Key Reserves: SG: Quincy Pondexter PF: Ryan Anderson C: Alexis Ajinca
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
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