The New Orleans Pelicans try to move into playoff contention when they face the host Philadelphia 76ers in a key contest for both teams Friday night. Tip-off for this game is set for 7 p.m. ET at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
New Orleans is coming off a win over Golden State on Tuesday and has won three of its last four, but time is running out for it to move into the top 10 in the Western Conference standings. Coming into Friday’s action, the Pelicans are 1½ games behind the 10th-place San Antonio Spurs, who have dropped five straight, with six games remaining in the regular season.
Philadelphia is the hottest team in the NBA right now, coming into this one having won six straight, including a 20-point win over Houston on Wednesday. That surge has pushed the 76ers atop the Eastern Conference standings by 2½ games over Brooklyn and three games over Milwaukee.
The NBA odds for this game have the 76ers as 7½-point favorites, with the over/under set at 226½.
The Pelicans have a talented bunch, but coach Stan Van Gundy is dealing with a couple of key injuries right now, with Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart both likely sidelined for this one. Ingram, who is second on the team in scoring at 23.8 points per game, is dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered recently and has been ruled out.
Hart, averaging 9.2 points and 8.0 rebounds, has been out for over a month with a thumb injury and is close to returning, though there’s been no word on when that will happen. Also, center Steven Adams is doubtful with a sprained toe, which isn’t good news when going against Joel Embiid.
With Ingram out, more of the scoring expectation will fall forward Zion Williamson and guard Lonzo Ball. Williamson has been leading the Pelicans in scoring for much of the season, averaging 27.0 points to go with 7.7 rebounds, four assists and 1.1 steals per game. In the previous meeting with Philadelphia in early April, Williamson had 37 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in a Pelicans victory.
Ball is averaging 14.6 points per game but is coming off a 33-point outing in the win over Golden State Tuesday, hitting seven 3-pointers. Ball can be hot and cold, but if he’s hitting from the perimeter, he can make things difficult for any opponent.
“I know what I can do on the court, and I didn’t step up to the plate last game,” Ball said of his scoring. “I wanted to be there for the guys tonight, especially Zion.”
Peaking For Playoffs
The 76ers have hit a new gear in the last couple of weeks, following up a four-game losing streak with their current run. For Philadelphia, gaining home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs is key since its 25-7 record at home is the best in the East.
Embiid is the key component for the 76ers, averaging 29.1 points (third in NBA), 10.8 rebounds (10th in league) and 1.4 blocks (12th). If Adams can’t go in this one, he’ll be even more dangerous, though he managed just 14 points in the first meeting between these two teams this season.
Forward Tobias Harris has been a solid second scoring option for the 76ers, averaging 19.6 points. He comes into this one scoring less than that in seven of his last eight games, including a 15-point effort in Wednesday’s rout of Houston.
Guard Ben Simmons has been one of the better defenders in the league this season, so he could be matched up with Ball to try to slow him down. Simmons is averaging 1.6 steals to rank sixth in the league while also contributing 14.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists.
Sixers Keep Rolling
Philadelphia wants the top seed in the East, so it has motivation to play hard in this one, as well as a little revenge on the mind after losing to the Pelicans a month ago. Embiid will be hard to stop even if Adams does play, but if the big seven-footer is sidelined, the Pelicans are going to have a lot of trouble with the MVP candidate.
New Orleans must get out and run to avoid being in the half-court against the 76ers as much as possible. Philadelphia is allowing 108.3 points per game, which ranks sixth in the league, so the Pelicans need to avoid letting the 76ers set up their defense as much as possible.
The 76ers will win this one, but New Orleans should be able to at least keep it close. When doing your NBA betting, take the points and go with the Pelicans.