Preview: New Orleans Pelicans take on Orlando Magic

New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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The New Orleans Pelicans will take on the Orlando Magic at home tonight as they proceed towards the All-Star Break this weekend.

The 13th place New Orleans Pelicans will face a matchup Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic that might be tougher than it seems on paper. The Magic are currently sitting at 10th place in the Eastern Conference and have not really been taken seriously as a threat in recent years. However, their squad this season has been surprisingly competitive.

A lot of this is thanks to 8th year center Nikola Vucevic, a first time all-star this season. He’s sitting at 4th place among centers in the NBA in scoring at 20.5 points per game. He also is a very solid creator and facilitator, notching 3.8 assists per game, also good enough for 4th out of all centers. You can’t fall asleep on him from range, either. He’s a 38% shooter from deep to this point in 2018-2019, which is the best percentage he’s ever put up in his career.

The New Orleans Pelicans will have their hands full trying to limit Vucevic, but the return of Anthony Davis to the starting lineup will at least make it difficult for Vucevic to get anything going in the interior.

Vucevic’s right-hand man in Orlando is freak-athlete forward, Aaron Gordon. The 23 year old can score from pretty much anywhere, and has become a better rebounder, playmaker, and defender as he’s aged. Gordon is a very dangerous type of opponent that can beat you badly any given night.

After those two guys, however, there’s a pretty steep drop-off for the Magic. Newly acquired young point guard Markelle Fultz is injured and won’t play in this one, as is rookie big-man Mo Bamba. The Magic traded away one of their more effective wings in Jonathan Simmons last week, so he’s no longer a worry for the Pelicans either. It ultimately comes down to limiting Vucevic and Gordon if you want to beat the Magic.

Still, this could be easier said than done. The Magic are only two games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and will be looking to go into the All-Star Break with as much momentum as possible. For a team like the New Orleans Pelicans that isn’t really sure if they want to win or lose their games for the remainder of the year, this just kind of seems like the classic “trap game” where a typically unassuming team can light you up for a blowout.

For the New Orleans Pelicans, win or lose, it will be interesting to continue monitoring how the team manages Anthony Davis’ minutes in this game. Will they limit him to under a half hour of action and hold him out of the fourth quarter, or will they let him play his normal workload from before his trade demand? So far in his two games back from injury, it’s been impossible to get a feel for how the team will use him for the rest of the season.

Next. What if the Anthony Davis plan backfires?. dark

After tonight, the New Orleans Pelicans only have one more game before the All-Star Break, Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Can the Pelicans take a winning streak into the break, or will they continue falling down the standings in the midst of all their current uncertainty?