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

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New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball will be crucial

Lonzo Ball had a difficult night against the Chicago Bulls.

He scored just 12 points and was a -13 during his 26 minutes on the court. Ball barely saw the court during the second half and did not feature at all in the fourth quarter.

However, this was an outlier night. The good news is that when we used to say this before, the outlier night was Ball putting the ball in the net a lot. Now, the surprise is when he doesn’t do that.

Ball had a scorching hot February, scoring nearly 17 points per game, dishing out almost six assists, and making 46 percent of his triples. The former UCLA guard is putting up numbers comparable to the best shooters in the NBA, all while playing excellent defense to boot. He wasn’t good against the Bulls, but those things happen and the Pelicans need him back at his best when they take on the Heat.

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Ball will be crucial on both ends of the court.

I expect him to see plenty of minutes defending Tyler Herro. Despite this only being his second year in the league, Herro is key for Erik Spoelstra. He is scoring more points than last year, but that hasn’t come without growing pains. Herro is turning the ball over more and shooting less efficiently. Still, watch a game and you’ll immediately spot how important Herro is for his team.

Some have dubbed Ball “Lockdown Lonzo” after some great defensive performances so far this season against the likes of Devin Booker or Donovan Mitchell. Like I wrote, Stan Van Gundy wants more from his team defensively and Ball has all the tools to set the tone for his peers.

On attack, Ball has grown into one of the Pels’ most vital cogs. He is arguably their best floor spacer and his playmaking continues to be valuable. Ball sets up Brandon Ingram and especially Zion Williamson with easy shots. I’m particularly interested in seeing how Ball will feed Williamson against Miami’s frontcourt, which I don’t believe should stand a real chance against the first time all-star.

Beyond that, I will also be keeping an eye on Ball’s shooting outside of the perimeter. In his last two games, the Pels’ point guard has diversified his shot selection a bit more. Ball took some healthy mid-range jumpers against the Utah Jazz and, as seen above, was fairly aggressive getting to the rack against the Bulls.

Ball’s new role has him taking most of his shots from beyond the arc, but having more weapons in his offensive arsenal helps unlock the rest of Ball’s game. I’m curious as to whether we’ll see even more improvement from him as the season ticks on.