One More Time: Pelicans 6th Matchup With Kings Is For the Playoffs

NEW ORLEANS – At the most critical point of the season, momentum does not favor the New Orleans Pelicans. They’ve lost six straight games at home including their heartbreaking loss to the Lakers in the first play-in game. To make matters worse, they’ll be without Zion Williamson, who dominated LA en route to 40 points before injuring his hamstring late in the game.

Sacramento comes into this do-or-die game without Malik Monk or Kevin Huerter. Those two pack a significant offensive punch, but the Kings will have all their stars ready and healthy. New Orleans won’t have Williamson, and Brandon Ingram didn’t look prepared to play on Tuesday.

Against the Lakers, Ingram scored 11 points on 12 shots, sitting on the bench for much of the fourth quarter. Willie Green elected to stick with shooters and defenders around Zion in the fourth, as Ingram bogged down the offense when he played. Frankly, Ingram doesn’t look healthy. He struggled mightily to generate space and explosion, likely still recovering from the bone bruise. Regardless, the Pelicans might not be able to rely on Ingram against Sacramento.

Fortunately, the Pelicans are a staggering 5-0 against Sacramento this season. Beating a team six times in one season would be unprecedented. The Pelicans won in the regular season without one of Zion or Ingram, though they haven’t played the Kings with both sidelined (or limited).

New Orleans played three games this season without Zion and Ingram with a 2-1 record, most recently their close loss to the Spurs at the beginning of April. CJ McCollum must step up to the challenge to beat Sacramento once and for all. McCollum went ice cold in the first play-in game, notching nine points on 15 shots. Though he dished out six assists, the Pelicans need McCollum to score like he has all season.

The Pelicans are still suited well to defend the Kings. Dyson Daniels and Herb Jones stifle De’Aaron Fox at the point of attack and their slew of rangy wings help slow down Sacramento’s dribble-handoff centric attack. The Pels must pay attention to Keegan Murray, who’s sharpshooting off of movement could catch some of their weaker defenders off guard. 

If the Pelicans advance to the playoffs, their role players must rise to the occasion. Maybe it will be Trey Murphy, or Herb Jones, or maybe Jose Alvarado once again. If not, the Pelicans’ season will end in tragically poetic fashion, finally losing to the one foe they controlled all along

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer

Keys to the Game

Manufacture Easy Buckets. If there is one thing the Sacramento Kings don’t particularly do well, it’s play defense. The Pelicans got every shot they wanted to go down against the Kings during the regular season, averaging 54.6% from the floor and 45.1% on their three point attempts. New Orleans turned nearly eight steals per game into 16.8 ppg off of turnovers and bludgeoned the Kings inside, winning points in the paint by 13.6 ppg. Without Williamson, the Pelicans will have to allow Jonas Valanciunas to find some type of rhythm offensively to make up for that loss inside. It will be on Dyson Daniels and Herb Jones to continue to lock up Sacramento’s backcourt and force the Kings into shots that will give New Orleans opportunities to run in the open floor.

Murphy’s Moment. Trey Murphy III likely steps into the starting lineup on Friday night. Trey has enjoyed great success against the Kings all season, averaging 18.0 ppg and 4.0 made three pointers (46.2 3P%) in three games. Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes are both capable of knocking down shots on their own, so Trey will have to come up big for the Pelicans if they are going to have a chance of moving on to the playoffs. Murphy’s rebounding could be a huge asset for the Pels as well. Over the last 22 games, Trey is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game, grabbing 6 or more boards 16 times

Leave it on the Court. Without Zion Williamson and with Brandon Ingram struggling after his extended absence, the Pelicans won’t be favored to win on their home floor. Though, it’s not like the Pelicans have been very good at the Smoothie King Center. After Tuesday night’s loss, the Pels are 21-20 in The Blender. The crowd will be looking for any reason to believe and won’t need much of a reason to leave if the Pels don’t come out from the opening tip playing as if this game is their last…because it quite literally could be.

Most Recent Starting Lineups

Sacramento KingsNew Orleans Pelicans
G – De’Aaron FoxG – CJ McCollum
G – Keon EllisG – Herb Jones
F – Keegan MurrayF – Brandon Ingram
F – Harrison BarnesF – Zion Williamson
C – Domantas SabonisC – Jonas Valanciunas


Sacramento Kings: Kevin Huerter (left shoulder surgery) and Malik Monk (right knee sprain) are OUT.

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson (left hamstring strain) is OUT.

Who: Sacramento Kings (46-36) at New Orleans Pelicans (49-33)

Season Series

  • Nov. 20: Pelicans def. Kings, 129-93
  • Nov. 22: Pelicans def. Kings, 117-112
  • Dec. 4: Pelicans def. Kings, 127-117 (In-Season Tournament)
  • Jan. 7: Pelicans def. Kings, 133-100
  • Apr. 11: Pelicans def. Kings, 135-123
  • Apr. 19: Sacramento Kings vs New Orleans Pelicans (Play-In Game)

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: Apr. 19, 8:30 PM CDT

Where to watch: TNT/TruTV

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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