New Orleans Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch against the Miami Heat

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The New Orleans Pelicans are looking to bounce back strong after a bad loss to the Chicago Bulls when they take on the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

The Miami Heat are currently sixth in the eastern conference, with an unexpected 17-18 record. However, this game gives the Heat a solid chance to head into the all-star break with a .500 record.

The Heat’s rough start to the season is so unexpected precisely because of last season’s unexpected heroics. Nobody thought that Miami could make it to the NBA finals, but they did just that. Erik Spoelstra’s squad are the reigning eastern conference champions, even if they have only lived up to their relatively new hype on occasion this season.

Related Story. Loss to Bulls highlights the Pels’ biggest problems. light

In all fairness, the Heat’s rough patches early on were complicated to prepare for. Three of their four most important players in Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragić, and Tyler Herro have all played less than 25 games. Butler, the Heat’s franchise cornerstone, has not dressed for the past two contests and is listed questionable against New Orleans.

In addition, rotation big Meyers Leonard is out for the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. That has meant plenty of minutes for Precious Achiuwa, who has played the third most games out of anyone on the Miami roster but is still a rookie, and Kelly Olynyk, who I like as a player but has real defensive limitations.

Avery Butler was the Heat’s most significant offseason signing, but he has struggled to get started in South Beach. Bradley, who was an NBA champion last year with the Lakers even though he opted out of playing in the Lake Buena Vista bubble, has only played ten games. Bradley was meant to replace Jae Crowder’s shooting, defensive versatility, and veteran expertise while providing some additional playmaking. He is also out versus the Pelicans due to injury.

On the Pelicans side of things, Stan Van Gundy will be demanding a strong response from his team after yesterday’s setback against the Chicago Bulls. This game against the Heat is already a stern test for the Pels, much more so on the second night of a back-to-back and right before the start of all-star weekend.

In another scenario, the Pels could feel inclined to take the night off and no one would judge them much for it. But that situation is not what’s happening here. The Pelicans remain eleventh in the west and are in dire need of wins to remain in the playoff picture. They cannot afford to take a night off, no matter how tempting it might seem.

Here are three things to watch out for against the Heat.