The Indiana Pacers are in New Orleans to take on the Pelicans in the Smoothie King Center on Monday night. Both of these teams come into this game limping for significantly different reasons. The Pacers are still trying to salvage their season after losing their star player, Victor Oladipo. The Pacers have lost 4 of their last 5, just like the Pelicans have. The Pelicans are without Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, E’Twuan Moore, and Elfrid Payton. This means that FIVE of their best 6 players are out of the lineup, which has to be some sort of record.
The Pacers have been attempting to find their new identity without Victor Oladipo. Everyone needs to step up and contribute without their leading scorer, but there are a few players that I believe are key to the Pacers not completely falling off. The center position for the Pacers is where the talent lies. Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis have both had great stretches throughout the season, and it seems to be Myles Turner’s turn right now. I wish they were more willing to play these two together because of Turner’s defense and Sabonis’s post offense should complement each other more than most bigs would. However, it seems like Turner will be the primary defender on Jahlil Okafor in this game, which will be a key matchup. If Turner can continue to grow and have big games against guys like Okafor, who are bad defensively, I think that should help the Pacers stay alive. Sabonis will kill Okafor on the offensive end if he gets the chance.
The guard play for the Pacers has been rather poor all year, even from Oladipo compared to his last season. Oladipo was still an all-star, but I thought he had become less effective later in the season. Darren Collison has become a very consistent distributor, but his offensive game isn’t there every night. The Pacers need an offensive guard to step up in Oladipo’s absence, but they have not gotten that yet. They have started Tyreke Evans in Oladipo’s spot for most of the time he has missed, but they changed the lineup last game to start Joseph. I assume that they will continue this after their last win. The biggest difference in the last game is that they had Bojan Bogdanovic score 31 and Darren Collison scored 20. I believe that Collison was a better scorer in the last game because Joseph handled the ball more than Evans typically would. I expect Joseph and Collison to start together and I hope to see Collison continue to pick up the scoring load for the Pacers.
The Pelicans are incredibly short-handed, and I can’t blame the organization for being rather frustrated by recent happenings. The Pelicans started the season as a pretty solid team, but they were quickly riddled with injuries all over the court that have continued all season long. Jrue Holiday has been the one mainstay in this lineup all year long, and reports are that the Pels have no interest in trading Holiday. What the recent injuries have shown is that Jahlil Okafor may be a steal of a pickup. Now, Okafor isn’t the best center in the league, but I have always believed that he is a formidable one that needed a chance. Okafor has struggled with weight problems in the past, but most of that stems from a lack of motivation in a bad situation. This may turn into a situation where Okafor has a solidified starting spot either this season or next if Anthony Davis is traded. They will also likely get a few young pieces along with Randle and Holiday already there. Okafor has looked great offensively in the last few weeks, and he could become a piece in the Pelicans short-term rebuild.
The Pelicans are also looking for more scoring. Kenrich Williams, Frank Jackson, and Darius Miller have all had decent scoring games recently, but they cannot rely on any of them on a nightly basis. They need Jrue Holiday to step up and score more if they want to win more games with this current team. In this matchup, both Collison and Joseph are solid defenders, but Holiday is a talented scorer that should be able to get his if he is not too focused on the defensive end.
Pacers vs. Pelicans Prediction
The Pacers are 1.5 favorites in the road in this spot, and I just don’t think they are good enough. I think it would be pretty easy to argue that the 2 most consistent scorers in this game are on the Pelicans. In a game that should be rather strange without so many of the big names, I want the home team, points, and the best player and this is a rare opportunity to get all three. I like the Pelicans here +1.5.