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Behind the Numbers presented by Entergy: Pelicans at Kings (1/17/21)

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A look at three key numbers related to Sunday’s game at Golden 1 Center between New Orleans and Sacramento (8 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, 100.3 FM):

18, 28: Rank among the NBA’s scoring leaders for New Orleans forwards Brandon Ingram (23.5 points per game) and Zion Williamson (21.8), respectively. The Pelicans are among just six teams that have two players ranked in the top 28, with the others being Portland (Damian Lillard fifth, C.J. McCollum eighth), Boston (Jayson Tatum seventh, Jaylen Brown 10th), the Clippers (Paul George 11th, Kawhi Leonard 12th), Milwaukee (Giannis Antetokounmpo ninth, Khris Middleton 27th) and Indiana (Malcolm Brogdon 24th, Domantas Sabonis 26th). Sacramento’s point production is a bit more of a collective effort, with De’Aaron Fox leading the Kings in scoring (18.8), while ranking 41st in the league; next in line are Harrison Barnes (51st), Buddy Hield (61st) and Richaun Holmes (73rd). Speaking of points, New Orleans is 3-1 when it scores at least 111, but 1-6 when it does not. Similarly, Sacramento’s records in those instances are 4-3 and 1-5, respectively.

32.4: New Orleans three-point percentage, which ranks 29th in the NBA (ahead of only Orlando at 31.8). That’s the bad news. The potential good news is that – as Stan Van Gundy discussed after Saturday’s practice – the Pelicans are hopeful they can improve in this category, partly by creating better shots, but also by individual players returning to their career norms. JJ Redick is shooting just 29.5 percent from three-point range, but has been at or near 40 percent by the end of every previous season since 2013-14. Redick’s career rate of 41.5 ranks 17th in the history of the NBA. Meanwhile, Nicolo Melli was an accomplished pro and shooter during his lengthy international career, but has started 2020-21 at just 19 percent. During a January-March stretch of his rookie NBA season, Melli was one of the league’s best three-point shooters, but he shot two airballs on jumpers Friday vs. the Lakers, very uncharacteristic for his skill level. On the plus side so far, Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s performance in two games in Los Angeles bumped his three-point percentage up to a team-best 38.9; Eric Bledsoe is shooting 37.5 percent, his best rate since 2012-13 with the Clippers.

5: Want to feel old? The New Orleans and Sacramento rosters feature a combined five players who were born in either 2000 or 2001, one factor behind why the Pelicans (average age 25.0, via HispanosNBA.com) and Kings (25.1) both entered the regular season ranked among the league’s nine youngest squads. Incidentally, Minnesota was No. 1 in the category of youth at an average age of 23.6, while the Los Angeles franchises boast the NBA’s oldest rosters, with the Lakers (28.9) edging the Clippers (28.2) at the top. For New Orleans, Williamson and Jaxson Hayes are both Y2K babies, while rookie Kira Lewis Jr. was born the following year. Sacramento rookies Tyrese Haliburton (2000) and Jahmi’us Ramsey (2001) round out the quintet in Sunday’s Western Conference matchup.

Previous game starting lineups

NEW ORLEANS (4-7)

Friday loss at Lakers

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams

Notes: The Pelicans used the same starting lineup in their first nine games, but were forced to shuffle it in each of the past two contests due to injury absences. Bledsoe (eye irritation) came off the bench Friday at the Lakers after being a game-time decision, but is no longer listed on the injury report. … New Orleans has won its last three games vs. Sacramento in conventional NBA arenas, but went 0-2 against the Kings in the Orlando bubble.

SACRAMENTO (5-8)

Friday loss vs. Clippers

De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, Richaun Holmes

Notes: Bagley is listed as questionable to play Sunday due to a wrist injury, as is backup center Hassan Whiteside (hip). … This group has started 12 games together, going 5-7. On one occasion, Haliburton replaced Holmes in a home loss to Portland.

Pelicans Keys To Victory

WIN THE BATTLE OF THE BIGS

Bagley’s status is uncertain, but if the Duke product does play Sunday, he could be matched up near the low block with fellow former Blue Devil Williamson. The Pelicans and Kings are the relatively rare NBA teams that do not use a feared floor-spacer in their starting lineup at either power forward or center. Combined, Williamson, Adams and Holmes have shot 1/5 from the three-point line this season, with Adams not taking any and Williamson going 0/2. Bagley is more willing to fire from deep, at 12/33.

ATTACK PERIMETER DEFENSIVE PRESSURE

The Lakers used aggressiveness and pesky on-ball defense to turn the momentum in Friday’s game at Staples Center, an approach that led to some costly Pelicans turnovers. New Orleans guards need to make defenses pay for that strategy by driving past overzealous defenders and scoring, or drawing help and dishing to wide-open shooters.

SHOOT WITH CONFIDENCE FROM THREE

New Orleans was top-seven in the NBA last season in both three-point percentage and three-point makes, relying on very similar personnel compared to what the Pelicans have now. They need to get back to that form of 2019-20, when they finished at 37.0 percent, compared to 32.4 early in 2020-21. No NBA team has shot below 32 percent from the arc over an entire season since the 2015-16 Lakers (31.7).

Sourced from Pelicans

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