The New Orleans Pelicans look to follow up two outstanding performances when they go for their third straight victory Monday night against the visiting Orlando Magic. The Pelicans finished their road trip with an eight-point win at Sacramento and came home to set season highs in points and assists (33) in Saturday’s 123-101 rout of the Cleveland with three players scoring at least 29.
“We’re locked in as a unit,” New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 32.3 points and 13.8 rebounds, told reporters. “We feel like we can battle with the best of them. We’re starting to understand what it takes to win games.” Forward Anthony Davis said the Pelicans will be “a special team” and they should get tested against the much-improved Magic, who had won four of their first five games - including victories over Cleveland and San Antonio - before dropping a 120-113 decision at Charlotte on Sunday. Evan Fournier continued his solid play with 23 points and Jonathon Simmons poured in a career-high 27, but Orlando allowed 54.1 percent shooting overall and 34 points to Kemba Walker. “I’m proud of how we fought,” Magic coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “But 120 points in going to get you beat. Fifty-four percent is going to get you beat. We’ve got to do a better job in the defensive end.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Florida (Orlando), FSN New Orleans
ABOUT THE MAGIC (4-2): Forward Aaron Gordon is off to a terrific start, especially in the last three games when he is averaging 24.7 points and 9.7 rebounds while draining nine of his 15 attempts from 3-point range. Center Nikola Vucevic notched his first double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) Sunday since accomplishing the feat in the first two games of the season, but missed 11 of his 17 shots from the field. Simmons played a season-high 32 minutes Sunday, in part,due to the absence of fellow small forward Jonathan Isaac as the rookie missed his first game of the season due to illness.
ABOUT THE PELICANS (3-3): Davis scored 30 to push his average to 25.4, Cousins had 29 and point guard Jrue Holiday stepped up with a season-high 29 against Cleveland as New Orleans shot 51.6 percent from the field. “I told (Holiday) when he came out, ‘We are going to need this from you every night. This is how you got to start playing. You play like this, we are a tough team to beat,’” Davis said to reporters after Holiday made 12-of-17 from the floor and dished out seven assists. Holiday’s backcourt partner E’Twaun Moore, averaging 12.3 points, scored a career high-tying 24 against Cleveland.
1. Orlando SG Terrence Ross scored a season-high 17 on 6-of-15 shooting after making just two of his 22 shots in the previous three contests.
2. New Orleans F Josh Smith, who played in China last season, scored two points and grabbed four boards in seven minutes Saturday in his season debut.
3. The Magic have won four of the last five meetings, but the Pelicans won the last matchup of 2016-17 at home.
PREDICTION: Pelicans 110, Magic 101