The Miami Heat will be hoping to get their 2020-21 campaign on the right track when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on opening night. Both these franchises have the aspirations and the talent for a deep postseason run.
For the New Orleans Pelicans, their frontcourt steals the show. The trio of Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and Steven Adams will be hard to deal with, even for the toughest players in the league. This is the same notion that the Miami Heat would look to disprove, led by the gritty Bam Adebayo.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Miami Heat: Key matchups to look out for
Keeping in mind that Jimmy Butler has been listed as questionable for the game, the Pels enter this tie with the edge on paper. However, there are several other matchups that will have a huge bearing on the game. Let us look at the same now.
#1 Lonzo Ball vs Duncan Robinson
The Miami Heat have one of the most lethal sharpshooters in the league in Duncan Robinson while the New Orleans Pelicans have an elite perimeter defender in Lonzo Ball. Considering that Ball has grown into a shooter himself, this matchup could set the tone for the three-point battle.
Robinson and Ball have a lot at stake this season. Both will be becoming restricted free agents next season and need to prove a few things. For the former, it's about proving that he can be more than just a catch-and-shoot specialist while the latter needs to show consistency on the offensive front.
#2 Brandon Ingram vs Andre Iguodala
After weeks of speculation, Brandon Ingram signed a five-year max contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Although Zion Williamson may steal all the limelight, Ingram is still the most important player for Stan Van Gundy's side right now.
The 2020 Most Improved Player had 24 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds in the season opener and will be running the offense for the Pels more often than not.
With Jimmy Butler doubtful for the game, Andre Iguodala will be primarily tasked with guarding Ingram. Iguodala isn't expected to impact the scoring too much but his defensive plays could severely tip the game in the Miami Heat's favor.
#3 Zion Williamson vs Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo was among the few stars who signed a max extension this offseason. He repaid the Miami Heat's faith by racking up 25 points and 11 rebounds against Orlando Magic but has an uphill task ahead of him.
Zion Williamson turned the ball over far too often in the New Orleans Pelicans' season opener but will be hoping to rectify that. Besides that, he looked fairly confident on the boards and went 7-of-9 from the field.
The Miami Heat have more riding on this matchup than the New Orleans Pelicans because Adebayo brings his teammates into play more than Zion if he gets going.
Published 25 Dec 2020, 14:34 IST