A look at three key numbers related to Thursday’s game at the Air Canada Centre between New Orleans and Toronto (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):
3: Rank in the NBA in defensive efficiency for New Orleans (94.9 points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com) from Nov. 3-8, spanning the team’s current, undefeated road trip. While Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have powered the Pelicans on offense and the backboards, another key has been a stingy defense. Only Golden State (89.4) and Philadelphia (93.3) have been better defensively over that six-day span. Granted, the first two opponents on this New Orleans trek both rate as below-average clubs offensively, with Chicago ranked dead last and Dallas currently 26th, but Indiana is seventh. Improvement in defending the three-point shot has helped New Orleans greatly during the 3-0 trip, with opponents just 29/100 from beyond the arc. The Bulls (26.2 percent) and Mavericks (26.5) both finished below 30 percent.
5: New Orleans victories by single digits this season (the only exception was a 22-point verdict over Cleveland on Oct. 28). The 6-5 Pelicans have shown an early-season knack for pulling out games in the fourth quarter and overtime, particularly during road wins at the Lakers, Sacramento, Chicago and Indiana. Last season, New Orleans did not register its fifth win by single digits until Dec. 15; by that time, the Pelicans were 9-18 overall and fighting an uphill battle to try to get into the Western Conference playoff conversation. Through the first three-plus weeks of 2017-18, the Pelicans are tied with Detroit and Minnesota for the most single-digit triumphs in the NBA. Not coincidentally, the Pistons (second-best record in the East) and Timberwolves (tied for third in West) are off to excellent starts.
29: Toronto’s rank among the 30 NBA teams in three-point percentage (32.2), ahead of only the Lakers (30.4). A large chunk of the offseason discussion surrounding the Raptors focused on their plan to fire more three-point shots than they have in the recent past, but they’re not off to a good start from long distance. Interestingly though – and this probably speaks to the quality of two-point attempts they’re getting – the Raptors are still fifth in the NBA in offensive efficiency (107.9 points per 100 possessions). Through the first 10 games of the season, the most effective way to slow down Toronto’s offense has been to limit their layups, dunks and other easy looks at the basket. One big factor behind the below-average three-point accuracy is that No. 1 perimeter threat and All-Star guard Kyle Lowry is shooting just 32.2 percent on treys.