New Orleans Pelicans Preview: NAW and the bench will be key vs. Kings

Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings is defended by Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings is defended by Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

This sounds like an oxymoron, but it was a good loss for the New Orleans Pelicans against the Hawks on Wednesday. It showed that this team can compete with the best. Now they face a 2-2 Sacramento Kings team.

New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings last game

The Pelicans are coming off a 102-99 loss to the Hawks. I know it has only been five games, but this was one of the best Pels’ games of the season. Devonte’ Graham led the team with 21 points and six assists. Jonas Valanciunas had another double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Even with a good night from JV, the Pelicans were outrebounded 55-44.

On the flip side, Sacramento is coming off a 110-107 win against the Phoenix Suns. Harrison Barnes came in clutch and hit the game-winner for the Kings. He finished the night with 22 points and nine rebounds. Buddy Hield came off the bench and scored a team-high 26 points.

2021-2022 season

These two teams only play two games all season long. They play at the Smoothie King Center on Friday. Then they are on the road in Sacramento on November 3rd.

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New Orleans and Sacramento have played each other 65 times leading into this matchup. The Pelicans have a 36-29 series lead. The last time they played was on April 12th, 2021. The Pels got the win, but De’Aaron Fox had 43 points on 50 percent shooting. Brandon Ingram had 34 points and seven assists for New Orleans.

Keys to the game

Offensive rebounds killed the Pels against the Hawks. The New Orleans Pelicans were not aggressive under the basket. Atlanta had 21 offensive rebounds. Yes, 21! New Orleans only had nine the entire game. Jaxson Hayes played 11 minutes on Wednesday and only had two rebounds. It can not be just Jonas Valanciunas putting in the work down low. It needs to be a team effort.

Smart shots will help the Pelicans get into a better scoring position. They scored 48 points in the paint and shot 43 percent as a team. The New Orleans Pelicans can not live or die by the three-point line. One day it will work for them, but as of right now they should utilize the paint to their advantage.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker has been struggling lately. He is averaging 15 points per game and six rebounds per game. That may look good at first glance, but diving deeper into his stat line so far this season, he is shooting 35 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. He needs to improve his efficiency and take smarter shots. If and when he does, Pelicans will have more success.

The New Orleans Pelicans are trying to hold on without Zion Williamson and will need a bigger contribution from their bench if they want to stay out of a big hole to start the season.

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