The Pick: Pelicans 108-99
Remember when Philadelphia was 3-0 and their style of play was “fun” because it was resulting in wins? Things have changed since that hot start and the 76ers now sit at 6-10 while giving up 5.6 more points per game than any other team in the NBA.
. Professional basketball is slowly becoming a statistic based game, meaning that teams are looking to score in the paint or from beyond the three point line. And the 76ers figure to have big time issues defending both tonight against the Pelicans.
No team in the league is allowing more made three pointers (10.9) than Philadelphia, and with opponents converting at on 38.5 percent (second highest in the league) of their attempts, it is safe to say that they are the worst team in the league when it comes to defending the long ball. The Pelicans don’t shoot a ton of threes, but with Ryan Anderson (predicting a huge day from the marksman) now healthy and four members of their backcourt shooting at least 36.8 percent, it is easy to imagine New Orleans gaining a sizable edge when it comes to long range shooting (Philadelphia is the seventh worst three point shooting team in terms of percentage).
If you look at this matchup position by position there are a few spots that favor the Pelicans in a big way. First, Jrue Holliday is returning home to the city in which he spent his first four professional seasons, and I’m not overlooking the “revenge” angle that figures to take place. The point guard has been playing better of late (a 4:1 assist to turnover ratio over the last ten days, not to mention a career best 43.3 percent mark from distance) and is simply better than Michael Carter-Williams at this very moment. In the front court, I have very big concerns about how the 76ers are going to deal with Anthony Davis. At 6-foot-10 he is too tall for Evan Turner or Thad Young to comfortably guard, but they will have to take the challenge as Spencer Hawes is going to be guarding Jason Smith in the paint. On the flip side, it is very possible that Davis guards the multi-talented Hawes (he’s made a three-pointer in all 14 games he’s played in this year and ranks in the top ten in percentage), as the Pelicans have athletes like Tyreke Evans that can guard multiple positions. In the event Hawes does not play (a nagging knee injury has kept him out of action for one week), the 76ers have no chance at containing Davis and could struggle to keep this a competitive game.
As far as getting easy baskets goes, the Pelicans have the fourth best assist to turnover ratio in all of basketball (1.60) and are forcing 3.1 more turnovers than they commit (second best in the league). On the other hand, the 76ers rank in the bottom half of the league in both categories, a trend that could lead to transition opportunities for the road team. Never was the difference in ball security more evident than when these two teams squared off in New Orleans less than two weeks ago. The 76ers produced percentages (42.2-percent from the field, 31.6-percent from distance, and 71-percent from the free throw line) that nearly mirrored their season averages (44.9/32.3/70.7), yet they lost by 37 as a result of turning the ball over (17) more times than they set up a teammate (16). This allowed the Pelicans to dish out 30 assists (compared to only 13 turnovers) and shoot 60.5 percent from the field as they doubled Philadelphia’s transition point total.
Fun Fact: Carter-Williams took 20-plus shots only twice in his first ten games, never handing out fewer than three assists. He has attempted 21 shots and handed out three assists in each of his last two games. He is a tall, rangy point guard that can make plays, but I don’t view him as an elite scoring point guard right now. The 76ers are going to struggle if he dominates the ball and looks for his shot before he looks for the best shot, even on a team with relatively few offensive options.