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New Orleans Pelicans Week 4 Analysis

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts to dunking the ball against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at the Smoothie King Center.

The New Orleans Pelicans have started to establish an offensive identity. It resulted in two In-Season tournament wins and a convincing win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have stepped up to lead their team in the wake of a slew of injuries to start the season. The only blemish last week was a one-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

New Orleans Pelicans Week 4 Analysis

In their second In-Season tournament victory, the Pelicans shot 52.2% from deep against the defending champion Denver Nuggets. That was the Pelicans’ best display of shooting all season. Naji Marshall and Matt Ryan hit open shots when called upon. Williamson and Ingram were in command during a pivotal 8-0 run that decided the game.

Williamson got some rest on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Pelicans were in control of the game until they slipped away against Minnesota. Karl Anthony-Towns made every play down the stretch for the Timberwolves, and Anthony Edwards fouled out with 1o seconds remaining. Towns hit a runner to give Minnesota the lead and ultimately win.

Ingram hit all five of his three-pointers and led all scorers against Sacramento. The Kings held a 47-43 midway through the second quarter. That lead was demolished with a run that allowed the Pelicans to gain a 30-point advantage. As stated above, the Pelicans found their rhythm on offense. New Orleans was able to get the largest win of the season.

Shooting has Improved

New Orleans has made 12 or more three-pointers in five straight games, shooting at least 41% in four of those contests. Ingram and Williamson are attacking at will. Given that both guys can score anywhere inside the paint, the corners have opened up for guys like Ryan and Jordan Hawkins. With Ryan out due to injury, look for Hawkins and Ingram to create more opportunities on the wing.

In-Season Tournament

A win on Friday combined with a Houston Rockets loss in one of their remaining tournament games would go a long way for the Pelicans to advance. New Orleans has the best point differential in their group. Another key point would be Ingram and Williamson average 48.7 points combined in tournament games.

Additionally, a tournament win will bode well for the Pelicans. They have two playoff series victories in franchise history. And being that the team hasn’t made it past the second round, winning the NBA Cup can help that sense of urgency needed to advance in May and June.

Sharing the Basketball

Although the Pelicans are 16th in the league in assists, they have averaged 32.7 over the last three games; only Toronto has averaged more over that span. Furthermore, the Pelicans are sixth in the league with 28.4 assists per game at home. Monday night against Sacramento, a season-high 38 assists were recorded for New Orleans.  Each starter had at least three assists, with big man Jonas Valanciunas leading the way with seven.

The Look Ahead

Wednesday will provide a chance for revenge for the Kings, or the Pelicans can assert their dominance with their second straight win over this playoff-contending team. Since the Pelicans won two of their first three In-Season tournament games, Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers will be in a playoff-like atmosphere.

That game Friday will be the first of three straight on the road as the Pelicans will end the week with two games in Salt Lake City. The return of Jose Alvarado should help the defense and provide energy in the Pelicans’ rotation. As long as Williamson and Ingram are playing aggressively, the Pelicans will be tough to defeat.

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