There are 10 games to look forward to on a busy Monday in the NBA and the clash between Western Conference high-flyers New Orleans Pelicans and Eastern Conference contenders Philadelphia 76ers is one of the highlights.
The Pelicans are enjoying a strong season and they sit in second spot in the West with a 23-13 overall record.
The Sixers got off to a rough start but they go into Monday’s game as one of the NBA’s form teams, having won nine of their last 11 games, and they sit in fifth spot in the East.
Philadelphia are +1800 to win the NBA Championship outright and New Orleans can be backed at .
What: New Orleans Pelicans @ Philadelphia 76ers
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
When: 19:00, Monday January 2nd 2023 (Eastern Time)
How to watch: NBA League Pass, LOCAL TV: NBCSPBSNO
Odds: New Orleans Pelicans +175 Money Line, Philadelphia 76ers
This is the second meeting in just three days between these two teams after the Pelicans claimed a 127-116 victory over Philadelphia in New Orleans.
The Sixers started strongly and opened up an early 10-point lead but New Orleans had claimed the advantage by the end of the first quarter and were never behind from that point as they recorded a reasonably comfortable win, with CJ McCollum leading the scoring with 42 points.
Monday’s meeting may well follow a different pattern as Philadelphia are a far stronger side at home and the Pelicans tend to struggle on the road. The Sixers are seeking a 10th straight win at the Wells Fargo Center, while the Pelicans are 7-9 on their travels and they have four defeats in their last five away.
Philadelphia return to the Wells Fargo Center after a four-game road trip and they completed that stint with a convincing 115-96 victory at Oklahoma City Thunder.
Philadelphia impressed against OKC despite being without James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and P.J. Tucker as the trio were rested due to injury management, but all three are expected to be involved against New Orleans on Monday.
If all three are available then Philadelphia have a clean bill of health but the Pelicans do have a few injury concerns.
Forward Brandon Ingram has missed the last 17 games with a toe injury and looks set to miss out again. Pelicans coach Willie Green said he is hopeful Ingram is able to return “sometime soon” before their defeat at Memphis Grizzlies last time out, but the trip to Philadelphia is likely to come too soon. Fellow forward Larry Nance has missed the last two games with a neck injury and probably won’t be risked, although he is rated as questionable.
New Orleans look well placed to mount a serious playoff challenge in the West but their success shouldn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise.
The Pelicans came through the play-in tournament last season to reach the playoffs and then gave top seeds Phoenix Suns a first-round battle before eventually falling short in six games.
Star man Zion Williamson missed the entirety of last season with a foot injury and there were concerns he may struggle to get back to full speed this term but those worries have proven to be unfounded.
The 22-year-old forward is averaging 26.0 points-per-game, 7.0 rebounds and a career-high 4.5 assists, and has managed to feature in 28 of the Pelicans’ 36 games so far.
Guard McCollum is also enjoying a fine season and alongside Williamson, center Jonas Valanciunas, and Ingram, the Pelicans have a strong unit that could well emerge as serious contenders in the West - if they can find a way to win consistently on the road.
The Pelicans could emerge from a competitive West, and Philadelphia are starting to look like genuine challengers in the East as talisman Joel Embiid finally has the support he needs.
Embiid has carried Philadelphia in recent seasons but this year feels a little different, with Harden putting in some impressive performances and others stepping up to the plate.
In the win over OKC last time out, Tobias Harris led the scoring with 23 points and Embiid was only the Sixers’ fourth highest scorer, while 11 different Philadelphia players managed to score in that game.