The New Orleans Pelicans look to continue their hot streak on the road in Philadelphia tonight as they take on the beat-up 76ers. New Orleans heads closer towards the last play-in spot after beating the Knicks last Thursday and the Pacers on yesterday. The 76ers are without a lot of key players but have managed to battle their way to wins, with a 7-3 record in their last ten all on the back of Joel Embiid. This should be considered an underrated matchup tonight but can also be looked at as a toss up in terms of a projected winner.
How New Orleans can win: Without having Zion Williamson playing this season, the Pelicans have had a rather disappointing year. Not having both Williamson and Brandon Ingram in the lineup consistently, inconsistent play throughout the lineup, and just getting beat up by a lot of good teams has caused this year to start poorly.
Despite all this, the Pelicans have had a bit of a turn around and are only two wins out of a play-in spot. In their last five games the Pelicans are 5-5 and have beaten the Warriors, Timberwolves, Clippers, Knicks, and Pacers in that stretch. All of the teams they have beat are playoff teams or teams with play-in aspirations. The Pelicans with a record of 18-28, will seek their third straight win in Philly tonight.
Because of the play of Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valančiūnas, and Josh Hart the Pelicans have fought back to win their games. Ingram has been carrying most of the offensive load, replicating another borderline all-star season from last year averaging 22.4 points per game with a .538 true shooting percentage. Valančiūnas and Hart have also had an uptick in their offensive impact, with Jonas shooting an elite 41.7 percent from three and Hart averaging 13.5 points per game, which is a lot more from a guy only averaging 9.2 points a game last season.
In most team metrics, the Pelicans are at the bottom of the league, but the way they rebound and play cohesively has been the reason they are winning games. The Pelicans have been known to surprise a lot of teams this season, and as long as Valančiūnas can keep pace with Embiid and Ingram can hold down the rest of the scoring, the Pelicans stand a chance.
How Philadelphia can win: Just like Jokić and the Nuggets, right now the success of the 76ers is on the back of Joel Embiid. Embiid has been playing out of his mind replicating last year and his borderline MVP performance pre-injury. He is the cornerstone of this both the defense and offense for this team and leads the charge on a nightly basis. Embiid in his last five games has had a statsheet taken out of a Hall of Famers textbook. He has been averaging 38.4 points per game, shooting 57.3 percent from the field, and 47 percent from three-point-land. Embiid has been nothing short of dominant and is helping keep this team alive.
The Sixers are without Seth Curry (left ankle soreness), Danny Green (right hip soreness), Matisse Thybulle (right shoulder sprain), and Shake Milton (back contusion). All of these guys have been key pieces surrounding Embiid for most of the season and have aided him from the perimeter and on defense. Despite this, he continues to move forward like a force of nature.
The Sixers sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference and with Embiid at the helm they are always a tough matchup on most nights. They own a top-10 offensive and defensive rating so they can own most teams any time they like. They may be hurt against the Pelicans, but with Embiid playing like a man possessed, it could be another stellar night for the 76ers.
The Spread Via FanDuel:
Moneyline: PHI: (-420) | NO: (+330)
Spread: PHI: -9 (-110) | NO: +9 (-110)
Final Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers 114 New Orleans Pelicans 99
-The 76ers, healthy or not, are a tough team to face especially when Joel Embiid plays like a top player. The Pelicans have been on a roll lately but that stops tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. I expect Embiid to have another 30-plus point performance, especially matching up against Valančiūnas in the paint.