PREVIEW: Indiana Pacers aim to bounce back vs. visiting New Orleans Pelicans

By Field Level Media
Feb 3, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) drives to the basket for a lay up against Phoenix Suns forward Frank Kaminsky (8) during the first half at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans are coming off as good of a performance as they have had this season.

The Indiana Pacers are trying to bounce back from as bad a performance as they have had this season as they meet the Pelicans on Friday night in Indianapolis.

New Orleans finished its 3-2 homestand by routing Phoenix 123-101 on Wednesday night.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Pelicans, check out #WontBowDown rumors, rankings, and news here

“I don’t think there’s any doubt it was our best game of the year,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We played both ends of the floor well and we played for four quarters.”

New Orleans showed significant improvement in two areas in which it has struggled: defense and ball handling. It didn’t allow any 30-point quarters and committed just seven turnovers.

Van Gundy called the performance “the blueprint for us.”

“If you defend, rebound, and take care of the ball, you’re usually going to have a chance to win,” Van Gundy said.

Zion Williamson led the way by scoring 28 points, making 12 of 14 shots.

“Look how efficient he was shooting the ball, then (he had) six assists,” Van Gundy said of Williamson. “He was so under control, efficient scoring without forcing it and making plays to other people.”

Van Gundy said Williamson has had “a lot of great offensive performances,” but his effort against the Suns was “easily, easily his best defensive performance (of the season).”

Brandon Ingram scored 23, Lonzo Ball had 18, Steven Adams added 11 points and 13 rebounds, Eric Bledsoe scored 11 and JJ Redick and Josh Hart had 10 each off the bench.

“I think our offense flowed great,” Williamson said.

Nothing flowed well for the Pacers in a 130-110 loss at Milwaukee in which they trailed by as many as 40 points one night after beating visiting Memphis 134-116.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Pacers, check out #AlwaysGame rumors, rankings, and news here

“We just didn’t come out with enough urgency on both ends,” forward Doug McDermott said. “It’s something we’ve got to clean up. We’ve got to come out with that mindset that just because we played the night before doesn’t give us an excuse to kind of lay an egg.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists and didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

Indiana never led and allowed a season-worst 68 points in the first half in addition to a season-worst game total. The Bucks made the most 3-pointers ever by a Pacers opponent — 21 in 48 attempts.

“Defensively we weren’t as active right there coming out of the gates,” Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said.

Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers with a career-high 33 points and added 12 rebounds and six assists. Sabonis had matched his previous career high with 32 points against the Grizzlies.

“I feel like we got to come out against these big-time teams with no fear,” Sabonis said. “I feel like sometimes we respect them too much.”

The Pacers beat the Pelicans 118-116 in overtime at New Orleans on Jan. 4 as Malcolm Brogdon made a one-handed floater with 1.7 seconds left.

–Field Level Media