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NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (27-26) at ORLANDO MAGIC (17-39)
The Pelicans went into the All-Star break losing three straight games SU and ATS. Their most recent game was a 106-93 loss as 1-point favorites against the Pacers in New Orleans. The team has failed to score 100 points in each of the past three games and theyve allowed 104.3 PPG in those contests. Theyll need to tighten things up and it should be a lot easier with PF Anthony Davis (24.5 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 1.5 SPG) returning to the lineup. The Magic, meanwhile, won 89-83 as a 6-point home favorite against the Knicks heading into the break. Orlando has won two of its past four games SU and is also 4-1-1 ATS in its past six. The Magic and Pelicans met on opening night this season, when New Orleans won 101-84 as a 9-point favorite. The Pelicans have won-and-covered in two straight and seven of the past nine games in this series. Orlando, however, won-and-covered the last time it hosted New Orleans. The Pelicans have played surprisingly poorly against the Eastern Conference this season, going just 8-12 SU and 10-10 ATS. They are, however, 15-7 SU and ATS when coming off of an ATS loss. Orlando has had success ATS when playing the Western Conference this season, covering in 12 of their 21 games versus opponents out west. The Magic are also a pretty impressive 29-26-1 ATS overall on the season. PF Anthony Davis (Shoulder) is expected to play for the Pelicans, but PF Ryan Anderson (Elbow) is questionable and PG Jrue Holiday (Ankle) is out indefinitely for the team. PG Luke Ridnour (Personal) and PF Tobias Harris (Knee) are both questionable for Orlando.
The Pelicans lost three straight games heading into the break, but they should now have PF Anthony Davis back in this one. Davis has played like an MVP this season, giving the team a consistent source of offense and some of the best rim protection in the entire league. When these teams met on opening night, the forward was dominant on both ends of the floor. Davis played 36 minutes in that game and finished with 26 points, 17 rebounds, nine blocks and three steals. The health of his shoulder could hold him back a little, but his presence on the floor is missed and he should make the team better regardless. C Omer Asik (7.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG) played excellent defense the last time these teams played, finishing with 14 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks. Asik will be guarding C Nikola Vucevic (19.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG), who is one of the premier offensive bigs in basketball. If he is not on his game defensively, Vucevic will really kill the Pelicans inside. SG Eric Gordon (12.6 PPG, 3.8 APG) has been extremely inconsistent for this team, scoring just six points against the Pacers after pouring in 31 against the Jazz just two nights before. Gordon will need to start contributing on a nightly basis for this team, as they need his production with PG Jrue Holiday (15.2 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG) out for at least the next month. SF Tyreke Evans (16.8 PPG, 6.1 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG) has taken over as the distributor with Holiday out. Evans has done well in that role recently, averaging 14.8 PPG, 8.4 APG, 5.8 RPG and 1.4 SPG in 34.0 MPG over the past five games. He has, however, struggled with his shot in those games (40percent FG) and will need to find a way to score more efficiently while also running this offense.
The Magic have underperformed this season, but they strung together two wins in their past four games before heading into the break. C Nikola Vucevic continues to be one of the best offensive players in the league and is averaging 21.2 PPG and 11.8 RPG over the past five contests. He had 28 points (12-for-20 FG) and 18 rebounds in a win against the Knicks before the break and will need to play well in this game. He had 15 points, 23 rebounds and four blocks when these teams met on opening night and must provide the same rim protection that he did in that game. He struggles as a shot blocker (0.7 BPG) and a guy with his size should be able to make more of an impact on the defensive end, like he did in the first meeting between these teams. PG Elfrid Payton (7.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG) has really found his game for this team recently. Over the past five contests, Payton is averaging 10.2 PPG, 5.4 APG, 5.4 RPG and 2.6 SPG. He should be able to get to the rim at will against the Pelicans, as theyre going big at the point guard position and sacrificing speed in the process. SG Victor Oladipo (16.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.6 SPG) had 19 points (11-for-11 FT), five rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal in a win over the Knicks before the break. Oladipo wasnt on the floor when these teams met earlier in the season and his presence will really change this game. He is a very talented scorer and can also take his opponents out of games with his play on the defensive end. PF Tobias Harris (17.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG) had 25 points and eight rebounds in the opening night game between these teams. It would be big if he is able to give it a go in this game, and its looking good after he returned to practice on Wednesday.
Hawks hire Spurs assistant Budenholzer as new coach
General manager Danny Ferry Bicimotos called on his past experience with San Antonio to select Budenholzer to replace Larry Drew as coach. Drew's contract expires in June following three seasons as coach.
The Hawks have scheduled a news conference for Budenholzer on Wednesday in Atlanta.
The Hawks lost to Indiana in the first round of the playoffs. It was the team's sixth straight postseason appearance but Ferry is expected to continue his dramatic makeover of the team after trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams in his first year as general manager.
The Hawks say Budenholzer will continue serving as the Spurs' top assistant through the NBA finals. The Spurs completed a four-game sweep of Memphis in the Western Conference finals on Monday.
Ferry came to the Hawks last year after two years as vice president of basketball operations for the Spurs. With Budenholzer, Ferry now has his own coach after inheriting Drew.
"He has an incredible basketball acumen and has a keen awareness of the league and what it takes to be successful," Ferry said Tuesday in a statement released by the team. "His experience and four championships over the last 17 years provide a tremendous foundation for his leadership of our team."
Ferry, contacted by The Associated Press on Tuesday, declined to make additional comments until Wednesday's news conference.
Ferry calls Budenholzer "Bud" and "Coach Bud." Ferry was believed to have Budenholzer on his short list of candidates from the start of his search.
Budenholzer, 43, spent 19 years with the Spurs, including 17 seasons as an assistant. He was the top assistant for coach Gregg Popovich the last six years.
"I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization for the last 19 years," Budenholzer said in a statement released by the Hawks. "I knew it would have to be a tremendous situation for me to leave and clearly coming to Atlanta as the head coach of the Hawks is perfect for me.
"Ownership's commitment to taking this organization to the next level and creating a unique and special culture, partnering with a general manager like Danny Ferry who I have great respect for, and building a roster that has terrific potential because of the existing core and the ensuing flexibility presents a rare and uniquely positive opportunity."
The Hawks' new coach is looking for his fifth NBA championship ring this year. The Spurs won NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Budenholzer began his time with the Spurs as the team's video coordinator for two years before being named an assistant coach.
He will leave the Spurs with Popovich's blessing.
"I couldn't be happier for Mike for many reasons," Popovich said. "As anyone who's been part of this program knows, he has been more of a co-head coach than an assistant for a long time. His knowledge of the game as well as his ability to teach and develop relationships with players are all special. I will miss him a great deal both professionally and personally and am confident that he and Danny will make a great team as the future unfolds."
San Antonio guard Tony Parker said Budenholzer "has been extremely important to our success in San Antonio."
"He is a great coach," Parker said. "I think the Hawks made an excellent choice and I'm very happy for Coach Bud."
Led by their new management team of Budenholzer and Ferry, the Hawks could be factors in the free-agent market.
Center Al Horford is the lone starter with a guaranteed contract for next season. The only other players with guaranteed contracts are guard Lou Williams, who is recovering from a season-ending knee injury, and rookie guard John Jenkins. Point guard Jeff Teague can become a restricted free agent.
Longtime starting forward Josh Smith tops Atlanta's long list of unrestricted free agents.
If only the three players with guaranteed contracts return, the Hawks could have about $40 million under the cap to spend in free agency.
Drew could not be reached for comment. He endured what was essentially a lame-duck season after the team renewed the option on his contract last summer but didn't give him an extension.
Drew was 128-102 in three seasons.
"I thought we had a really good season given what our circumstances were. They weren't the best," Drew said after the season. "... The one thing I will say is I've had a great run here."
Drew began his time with the Hawks as an assistant under previous coach Mike Woodson. He moved up in 2010 after Woodson was hired. The Hawks advanced to the second round of the playoffs in Drew's first season but took first-round losses in 2012 and 2013.