The big story of the game will be the return of Kevin Durant from a hamstring injury that has kept him on the sidelines for 23 straight matches.
Another subplot of the encounter is the first-ever matchup between Kevin Durant and Zion Williamson. As a result of injuries to either or both players, the two stars have never met on the basketball court. But tonight, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Durant and Williamson will be available to play.
After a loss to the Atlanta Hawks last night, the New Orleans Pelicans have a 22-28 record. They are 11th in the West and are outside the playoff picture. The Brooklyn Nets, on the other hand, are 2nd in the East with a 35-16 record.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Brooklyn Nets - Prediction
The New Orleans Pelicans have been beset by injuries over the past week. They just got Williamson back from injury but have five key players out, including Brandon Ingram.
The Pelicans will be undermanned when they face the Brooklyn Nets, who will be without James Harden due to a hamstring strain.
The Brooklyn Nets have been the NBA’s model in adapting to various injuries and are favored to win versus the New Orleans Pelicans, who continue to struggle defensively.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Brooklyn Nets - Combined 5
Point Guard - Lonzo Ball l Shooting Guard - Kyrie Irving l Small Forward - Kevin Durant l Power Forward - Zion Williamson l Center - Steven Adams
Our hypothetical combined 5 consists of some of the best players in the league. The New Orleans Pelicans and Brooklyn Nets have a number of outstanding players. Had it not been for the injury bug, four of the five players in this combined 5 would have been past or present All-Stars.
The point guard position will be manned by Lonzo Ball, who has shown incredible improvement this season. His court vision has never been questioned, and he is as sharp a playmaker as ever. However, it’s his outside shooting that has improved by leaps and bounds. The New Orleans Pelicans guard is making 37.4 percent of his threes in the last 10 games. Two games ago, he drained eight three-pointers en route to a 27-point performance.
At shooting guard is Kyrie Irving. The Brooklyn Nets star has been in scintillating form over the last few games. In his last 10 outings, he scored at least 40 points three times, including a 43-point effort in a loss to the Orlando Magic on March 19. During this recent stretch, he is averaging 30.0 points per game on 52.1 percent shooting.
The small forward position belongs to none other than Kevin Durant. If he plays as well as he did prior to his injury, the New Orleans Pelicans will be in big trouble. In the 13 games he played before being sidelined, the Brooklyn Nets forward dropped 29.4 points while registering 7.5 rebounds and blocking 1.7 shots.
Taking the power forward position is Zion Williamson. The Brooklyn Nets will have a hard time keeping him out of the paint as the New Orleans Pelicans forward is making 62.5 percent of his shots and scoring an average of 26.5 points a night. He is due to pass Shaquille O’Neal’s record of consecutive games scoring 20 or more points while shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
It was either the Brooklyn Nets’ LaMarcus Aldridge or the New Orleans Pelicans’ Steven Adams for the center position. In the end, our combined 5 needs defense and rebounding, two things that Adams does well. This season, the 6-foot-11 center is scoring 7.9 points and grabbing 8.9 rebounds per contest. More importantly, his 1.0 defensive win share outdistances Aldridge’s 0.1 by a mile.