In advance of the Miami Heat vs New Orleans Pelicans matchup on Tuesday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena, we asked David Fisher (@usnfish) of SB Nation's The Bird Writes a few questions about the Pelicans.
1. It's hard to talk about the Pelicans without talking about Anthony Davis. What have you seen from him this year that you've loved, and do you think he can give the Heat some problems?
AD has been aggressive in two primary areas; attacking the offensive glass and beating other big men down the floor for easy baskets. Offensively he and Jrue Holiday are starting to build the relationship of the future but Pelican guards are still missing Davis more frequently than not diving to the basket on the Pick and Roll. His defense has improved over last year although he is prone to biting on shot fakes. If the Pelicans are going to be successful against Miami's blitz scheme against the Pick and Roll Davis is going to need to slip frequently and New Orleans guards are going to need to find him.
2. Losing Ryan Anderson is a huge blow to the team. How have the Pelicans tried to make up for his loss?
The Pelicans have started Alexis Ajinca since Ryan Anderson went down. This is significant since Ajinca was not even in the NBA to begin the season and is now the starting center for a team fighting to reach .500. In a word, the Pelicans have dealt with this loss poorly. He is the most important player on offense for the Pels, he is the only consistent three point threat and many of the offense sets revolve around Anderson creating space for the guards and Anthony Davis to attack the basket. New Orleans is 3-7 without Anderson while averaging 95.4 PPG. They are 12-10 with him scoring 105.5 PPG.
3. The Hornets rank 8th in fast break PPG this season after ranking 29th last season. Do you think Tyreke Evans has had anything to do with that, or has it been a change in philosophy?
Three primary factors. First, the Pelicans are creating more turnovers. The health of Eric Gordon, addition of Jrue Holiday, and improvement of both Al-Farouq Aminu and Anthony Davis are why the team is turning opponents over more often. Second, as I mentioned above, Anthony Davis is just outrunning other bigs down the floor. I think part of this is cross-matching, as Davis defends PFs but oftentimes opponents defend Davis with Cs. The other part is that he is simply faster in a straight line than nearly all other bigs in the NBA. Third, as you alluded to, is Tyreke Evans. He is rebounding the ball at a much higher rate than previously in his career and with the bench unit has free reign to initiate his own fast breaks. This has been critical as the second unit does not score efficiently unless the action begins with Tyreke.
4. Do you think the Pelicans can make the playoffs this year, or are they still a year away?
If they were in the East they would be a lock. In the West I continue to believe it will come down to March and April with this team. If they can stay relatively healthy and beat the teams they should beat there will be a chance they sneak in at the eighth seed. Phoenix and Portland performing so well beyond initial expectations has made the road much more difficult than even anticipated. They are at least a year a way from competing in the playoffs. A solid couple months could open the door for an appearance a year ahead of schedule.
5. Give us your prediction for the game.
New Orleans has been much better at defending the three pointer lately, but have had difficulty in the fouling department. LeBron and Wade will find space to operate in the paint throughout the night or live at the foul line and the Heat will build a sizable lead in the third quarter. In the fourth the Pelicans will score enough to make it look closer than it was. Heat 107 - Pelicans 98.