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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.
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