The Hornets’ offense has gone into the tank, Monday’s fluky outburst against the Pacers aside. The Pelicans should send Charlotte’s scorers crashing back to Earth, as our NBA expert picks explain.
The New Orleans Pelicans are feeling the pressure in the home stretch of the season. While they currently sit 12th in the Western Conference, NOLA is just a half-game out of the play-in tournament and only two games back of the No. 6 seed.
That makes tonight’s home date with the lowly Charlotte Hornets even more vital. And it’s why the Pelicans are laying as much as nine points on Thursday’s NBA odds board.
Charlotte snapped a four-game skid with a victory over Indiana last time out, and plays away from home for just the fourth time in the past 13 games tonight. New Orleans is 20-16 ATS as a host this season with a +5.3 net rating in the Big Easy.
I break down this spread and Over/Under total and give my best NBA picks and predictions for Hornets vs Pelicans on March 23.
The Hornets picked up win No. 23 over the Indiana Pacers on Monday, which puts them behind the tanking curve at the depths of the NBA standings when compared to fellow bottom-feeders Detroit, San Antonio, and Houston.
Charlotte looked like it was in line for a fifth straight loss, trailing Indiana by 21 points in the first half. But the Pacers got careless with the ball and the Hornets flipped 21 turnovers into 35 easy points and walked away a 115-109 victory.
The 115-point effort was the team’s biggest offensive outpouring since scoring 117 points back on Feb. 27. Since then, Charlotte has averaged just 102.8 points per game and lugs the 30th-ranked offensive rating and effective field goal rate.
Tonight’s team total of 108.5 points is asking a lot from the Hornets at this point. Not only is the team hitting the road for the first time in two weeks, but it heads to the Big Easy to face a Pelicans team pressing for a chance at the postseason.
The Pelicans rank out Top 10 in defensive rating on the season and have gotten even stingier in March, owning a rating of 112.2 over its last 10 contests. They’re holding those foes to only 109.5 points on 46.3% shooting per game, which would be a welcome uptick for an offense as craptacular as the Hornets.
Charlotte is the worst perimeter shooting team in the NBA and leans on looks inside, averaging the eighth-most points in the paint on the season. That interior production has dipped significantly, from 54.6 PITP to just 47.8 PITP in March. The Pelicans have clamped down on opponents inside this month, giving up only 47.2 PITP the past 10 games, which includes totals of 32 and 34 PITP allowed the past two games.
Mix in NOLA’s methodical approach on offense, which has slowed to a pace rating of 97.55 in March, and the Hornets’ awful offense won’t have as many touches in the first place. They aren’t going to be gifted 35 points off turnovers either.
We’ve seen Charlotte limp out to point totals of 82, 104, and 108 at home against teams like Philadelphia and Cleveland, who also rank among the elite in defensive rating as well as near the bottom in pace. Points will be hard to come by for the Hornets in the Big Easy tonight.
My best bet: Hornets TT Under 108.5 (-113 at Pinnacle)
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New Orleans opened as low as -7 last night, and that spread has slowly swelled to as big as -9 as of Thursday afternoon.
As previously mentioned, the Pelicans are playing for something in the final stretch of the season as they’re on the cusp of qualifying for the play-in tournament. New Orleans started the post-break schedule with a stumble, picking up only one win in its first five games back, but has since gone 4-3 SU — thanks in part to some softer opposition.
Charlotte falls into the category. The Hornets are 3-7 SU and 4-6 ATS so far in March, running out a abysmal offensive attack that sits at the bottom in advanced rating as well as effective field goal rate. The team is averaging less than 103 points in that 10-game span, and heads to the Big Easy to face a Pelicans squad that prides itself on defense.
New Orleans ranks out No. 8 in defensive rating on the season and has turned up that intensity this month — again due in some part to facing weaker foes. The Pelicans’ offensive efforts have been spotty since the All-Star break, but head coach Willie Green has his team playing more aggressively and attacking the basket in the past two outings, scoring 52 and 58 points in the paint in wins over Houston and San Antonio.
Charlotte sits 27th in defending the inside this month, allowing an average of 54 points in the paint against, and is missing starting center Mark Williams, who’s sidelined with a thumb injury. The Hornets have also been pushed around on the boards, ranking among the bottom third in rebound rate.
This Over/Under number hit the board as low as 225.5 and has risen to as high as 226.5 before coming back down to that original number as of Thursday afternoon.
This total sits on the lower end for the Pelicans’ recent games, considering the Hornets offensive issues. Charlotte not only is struggling to produce points, but the team’s tempo has dropped a few gears since the All-Star break, running out a pace rating of 99.35 compared to its pre-break rating of 101.88.
Much of that has to do with the Hornets’ opponents in recent outings, taking on some methodical attacks like Cleveland (twice), Philadelphia, New York, and Detroit. New Orleans is right there with those slower-tempo teams, ranked out 20th in pace since the break, and even slower over the past 10 games (97.55).
That offensive approach and solid defense has produced three straight Unders for NOLA backers, and a 3-12 Over/Under count in their last 15 games going back to Feb. 13. As for the Hornets, they’ve stayed below the number in their last two showings, and have a similar 4-11 O/U record in that same span.
New Orleans is 12-3 to the Under in its last 15 games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Hornets vs. Pelicans.
|Location:||Smoothie King Arena, New Orleans, LA|
|Date:||Thursday, March 23, 2023|
|Tip-off:||8:00 p.m. ET|
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