Clippers at Pelicans NBA Prediction for October 23
If you’ve been following the NBA during the first week of the 2018-19 season, you’ve probably noticed that scores from around the league have been astronomically high. Just last night, we saw the San Antonio Spurs outlast the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 143-142 in overtime. Even for an overtime game, that’s a high score. As of this writing, only the Boston Celtics (99.8 points per game) are averaging under 100 points per game.
Teams are playing faster this season in general, which naturally leads to more possessions per game, which naturally leads to more scoring chances, which naturally leads to more offensive production. It’s early, but the Spurs currently rank dead-last in the league in pace with an average of 100.7 possessions per game. Make no mistake, 100.7 possessions per game is a lot, yet it’s ranking 30th out of 30 teams at the moment. For scale, last year just 7 teams averaged more than 100.7 possessions per game. The New Orleans Pelicans led the league with an average of 102.7 possessions per game. So far this season, the Sacramento Kings lead the league at 111.3 possessions per game. The game is just being played at a breakneck pace.
The Pelicans have only played 2 games, but they have been offensive fiestas. New Orleans went into Houston and whipped the Rockets by the score of 131-112 on opening night and followed that up with a 149-129 shellacking of the Kings in their second game. Tonight, the high-scoring Pels will host the Los Angeles Clippers, who enter play Tuesday with a record of 2-1.
At this point there are 11 teams that have hit the over in every game so far this season, and the Pelicans are obviously one of them. 2 of the 3 games for the Clippers so far this season have gone under the total. The total for tonight’s tilt in the Big Easy is currently set at 238 1/2 points, which is the largest total I’ve ever seen for an NBA game.
Honestly, it’s hard to argue against it. It’s early, but the Pelicans have looked like an offensive juggernaut thus far. It all begins and ends with Anthony Davis. The Brow is poised for a monster season, and it’s going to be difficult for anyone else to garner MVP consideration if he keeps playing like he has early on. The big man has averaged 28.5 points, 13 rebounds and 2.5 blocks through the first 2 games. That’s particularly impressive when you consider that he was out there for only 26 minutes in the Pels’ blowout of the Kings last time out.
The most interesting aspect of Davis’ start is that his assist numbers are up. Davis is averaging 7 assists through 2 games, which would be a career-high by a mile if it were to continue over the course of an entire season. The Pelicans essentially run the entire offense through him, and it’s been working wonders so far.
It’s not like he’s the only guy doing things, though. Nikola Mirotic has played like a man possessed, averaging a team-best 33 points and 9.5 rebounds thus far. Mirotic has hit an unsustainable 61 percent of his shots so far, including nearly 65 percent of his looks from 3-point range. It’s good to see him thriving with New Orleans after a difficult tenure up in Chicago. Not to be forgotten, Julius Randle has averaged a tidy 19 points and 11 rebounds per game as the Pelicans’ first big man off the bench. So far, the 3-man frontcourt looks incredibly dynamic.
The matchups in the backcourt in this one should be interesting. Jrue Holiday and Elfrid Payton have essentially been able to do whatever they want offensively through 2 games, but they’ll face their stiffest test yet against what may be the best defensive backcourt in basketball. The Clippers start a pair of defensive bulldogs in Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverley, with rookie Shai-Gilgeous Alexander playing big minutes off the bench. These are 3 of the best defensive guards in the game, so life won’t be easy for Holiday or Payton.
Most of the Clippers’ own offensive production to this point has come via forwards Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari. Harris continues to be arguably one of the most underrated players in the league. The former Piston is averaging 22.7 points and better than 8 rebounds through LAC’s first 3 games of the season on tidy 49 percent shooting from the field. At 6’9″ with some bulk, Harris is simply too big and athletic for most other forwards to handle defensively.
Gallinari doesn’t have nearly as much spring in his step at this stage of his career, but he’s still capable of filling it up. Gallo has averaged nearly 21 points and better than 7 rebounds himself so far for Los Angeles. If there’s one thing the Pelicans lack it’s defensive quality on the wing. E’Twaun Moore is a fine defender, but he isn’t nearly big enough to handle either Gallinari or Harris. The Pelicans may have to resort to playing Darius Miller more minutes off the bench tonight in order to match up.
The Pels are scoring like crazy, but their defense leaves plenty to be desired. New Orleans has allowed more than 110 points per 100 possessions, which is one of the worst marks in the league to this point. To compare, the Phoenix Suns had the worst team defensive rating in the league last season at 110.6. The Clippers, meanwhile. have the fourth-best defensive rating so far at 101.2.
Because of the Clippers’ defensive prowess, I won’t necessarily talk you out of it if you want to hit the under here. That said, this game is taking place in New Orleans, so I expect the Pelicans to dictate the pace. The Pels haven’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, and they’re essentially going to make teams try and keep up with them offensively. I have interest in the Clippers covering the 6 1/2 point spread, but the best bet at this point looks like taking the over. 238 1/2 is an insanely high total, but I think these teams are more than capable of going over it.
Take the over on 238 1/2 points in what looks like it should be a track meet of a game.
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