Behind the Numbers: Knicks at Pelicans (10/30/21)

A look at three key numbers related to Saturday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between New York and New Orleans (6 p.m. Central, Bally Sports New Orleans, 100.3 FM):

55.2: If you were a bit concerned by Jonas Valanciunas’ shooting in his Pelicans debut Oct. 20 vs. Philadelphia, fear not. The 6-foot-11 center is shooting 55.2 percent from the field since his frustrating 3/19 night against the 76ers, a rate that’s in line with his career mark of 56.5 percent over 627 NBA games. He’s shooting 37/67 over the past five New Orleans games and has been a double-double force, collecting four straight of them (he barely missed a double-double Oct. 22 at Chicago, with 18 points and eight rebounds). Valanciunas’ 2021-22 average of 14.7 rebounds is second in the NBA, trailing only Utah center Rudy Gobert (17.8). A native of Lithuania, Valanciunas is third in offensive rebounding (4.8) and fourth in defensive rebounds (9.8).

9: Herbert Jones’ rank in minutes played per game (23.3) among all NBA rookies. The second-round pick has been a valuable member of New Orleans’ starting lineup over the past five games, playing at least 22 minutes every night. The eight rookies who’ve played more than Jones are all 2021 lottery picks, with Indiana’s Chris Duarte (No. 13 selection) leading the pack at a whopping 36.5 minutes per game. Duarte is followed in the stat by Toronto’s Scottie Barnes (34.9), Cleveland’s Evan Mobley (33.8), Orlando’s Franz Wagner (32.9) and Jalen Suggs (29.9), Houston’s Jalen Green (31.9), Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey (28.2) and Sacramento’s Davion Mitchell (27.3). Jones, who scored a career-best 12 points vs. Sacramento on Friday, is tied for second among rookies in total blocks with four (Mobley has 10).

15.0: Difference in points per game New York is generating from three-point baskets in 2021-22 and what New Orleans has produced in that category. The Knicks lead the NBA in three-point makes (16.2 per game), while the Pelicans are ranked 21st (11.2). Similarly, New York is No. 5 in the league in three-point percentage (38.0), with New Orleans placing 16th (33.7). If the Pelicans can reduce that imbalance Saturday, they may have a better chance to hand the Knicks their first road defeat of the regular season. Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker are averaging 3.6 treys per game to lead New York (tied for seventh in the NBA), while Devonte’ Graham tops New Orleans at 3.5. Incidentally, Golden State’s Stephen Curry is the league’s leader at 5.0.


NEW YORK (4-1)

Thursday win at Chicago

Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson

Notes: This group has started every game. New York’s starting group has logged 102 minutes together, but has actually been outscored during that span. Statistically, the Knicks’ best five-man lineup (among units used for 15-plus minutes) has consisted of reserves Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks, Obi Toppin and Taj Gibson. … Saturday is the finale of a two-game road trip for New York.


Friday loss vs. Sacramento

Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Herbert Jones, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 1-4. The combination has logged 78 minutes together, by far the most of any five-man lineup. Second-most is the 15 minutes played by the same quintet, but with Trey Murphy III replacing Alexander-Walker. … New Orleans is one of six teams in the Western Conference with only one victory, a group that also includes Phoenix, Houston, the Clippers, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.



New Orleans’ final tally of 109 points vs. Sacramento on Friday looked decent on paper, but that number was a bit misleading because the Pelicans poured in a bunch of baskets late in the fourth quarter. New Orleans needs to avoid scoreless stretches where it doesn’t get good looks at the hoop, a negative momentum-changer vs. the Kings.


The goal for New Orleans and its defense? “Slow New York, slow New York, slow.” The fast-starting Knicks appear intent on proving that their surprising 2020-21 trip to the playoffs was no fluke. New York’s offense is already in high gear, ranking third among the league’s 30 teams in efficiency.


Backcourt production could be pivotal Saturday, simply because both teams rely heavily on guard scoring. If Ingram (doubtful, hip contusion) can’t play, Graham and Alexander-Walker likely will need to have quality games, as New Orleans’ third- and fourth-leading scorers this season. Fournier, Walker and supersub Rose are New York’s No. 2-4 scorers so far.

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