When: November 9, 7:00 EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The television show Heroes used the tagline, “Save the cheerleader, save the world.”
The Hornets could modify that phrase just a bit as they prepare to face the Pelicans to sound something more like this, “Stop Brandon Ingram, stop the Pels.”
After spending his first three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Ingram was traded to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis deal. Now in his fourth year the lanky 22-year-old is currently lighting the league on fire. Through Thursday’s games his averages of 25.9 points on 55 percent shooting with 7.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists place him among the NBA’s most productive players.
The Pelicans are a fascinating study in contrasts. Their 119.3 points per game ranks fourth in the league, but on the flip side they are allowing opponents to score 124.3 points per game which ranks dead last. The reason for the high totals on both sides of the ledger is New Orleans plays with the sixth fastest pace in the NBA. They love to push the ball and get in transition with their fast, athletic back court.
The reason stopping Brandon Ingram is the key to winning this game is the Pelicans have few consistent offensive weapons after him. Heralded rookie Zion Williamson is still attending games in street clothes. Jrue Holiday, a normally effective scorer who over the last two seasons averaged 20.0 points per game on 48 percent shooting, is averaging just 14.2 points per game while hitting just 37 percent of his shots this year. Fellow guard Lonzo Ball can push the pace and set up other players though he isn’t a scoring threat. Josh Hart and J.J. Redick can get hot for stretches but rarely will they take over for an entire game. Center Derrick Favors has struggled this season with both health and productivity.
Put all of that together and it’s no surprise the Pelicans have one of the worst records in the NBA.
While the Pelicans like to push the pace, the Hornets strive to slow things down. Charlotte plays at the sixth slowest pace in the league, preferring longer possessions to the Pelicans track meets. The Hornets also have a much more balanced approach to scoring. While New Orleans relies heavily on Brandon Ingram on a nightly basis, Charlotte has had five different leading scorers through their first eight games.
The Hornets recipe for success against the Pelicans is to limit Brandon Ingram while slowing down the pace. If this game was a dance, Charlotte needs to invite New Orleans to a waltz, not a salsa session.
The Hornets are exceeding nearly everyone’s expectations early on with their 4-4 record. They have won three out of their last four games and this one is definitely winnable for this young, frisky Charlotte team.