The New Orleans Pelicans would have been forgiven for marking up their road game against the Indiana Pacers as a scheduled loss. Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Trey Murphy III were all listed on the injury report. Jose Alvarado was still serving out a three-game suspension. Dyson Daniels is still rehabbing his knee.

They'd won a tough game in New York the night before and then had plane trouble. They arrived at their Indianapolis hotel just in time for breakfast.

Yet the Pelicans played on. Everyone fought hard against the Pacers in the nine-point loss. Unfortunately, Willie Green played into Indiana's hand.

Jonas Valanciunas logged only seven minutes against the Pacers, and the third-year coach said that was by design in the postgame press conference, via the Pelicans on YouTube. Green's adjustment to that adjustment will be crucial in the baseball series rematch in the Smoothie King Center.

“This was a game that coming into it we knew we were probably going to have to go small,” Green explained. “Go more Larry (Nance Jr.) at the five. More of Herb (Jones) and Naji (Marshall) at the five with Zion handling, with (Brandon Ingram) handling. It allows you to stay in front of them defensively. Make them take tough shots then open the floor and attack them offensively. That was the adjustment for us, trying to get more of our smaller groups on the floor.”

Green's Pelicans need info now, not in a playoff game

New Orleans Pelicans guard Jordan Hawkins (24) and center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and forward Herbert Jones (5) look on against the Miami Heat during the second half at Smoothie King Center.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Nance Jr.'s highly-valued leadership is huge in the locker room but the Pelicans are a pound-the-paint, pressure-the-rim kind of team on the court. Valanciunas and Williamson do a large part of that work. For all of their faults, that's what got the squad squarely in the NBA playoffs mix. They shoot the eighth-fewest three-pointers, play at a just below league-average pace, and are borderline top-10 in points in the paint, via

No team scores more points in the paint than the Pacers, who mostly deploy Obi Toppin and Myles Turner at center. New Orleans and Indiana are both top-five in points off of turnovers, which leads to layups and highlight-reel dunks. The Pelicans posted those numbers with Valanciunas averaging 25 minutes per game. Why go away from what's working? More importantly, what did Green learn from the experiment? However the Pelicans answer those questions will factor in heavily when evaluating the 42-year-old head coach.

Green has admitted earlier this season that Ty Lue just got the best of him. His decision to let Jordan Hawkins run the point in a late-game situation against Chicago ended terribly. Eric Spoelstra, Jason Kidd, and Ime Udoka all found ways to steal wins away from Green's Pelicans.

Indiana's Rick Carlisle always has a card up the sleeve. Still, Green has to play to the team's strengths. Give Valanciunas a couple of opportunities to show he can keep up for more than a handful of minutes to start the game. If the Lithuanian is losing foot races too often, fine. At least the team would find out before it's too late. Green will not get those experimental minutes in a playoff game.