In a season filled with highs and lows the New Orleans Pelicans find themselves tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 8th spot in the Western Conference with each team having 4 games left to play. And in the true fashion of this season the remaining games for the Pelicans won’t be easy. The Pels have a game at home against Phoenix followed by 2 on the road at Houston and Minnesota. Then they’ll end the season at home versus the San Antonio Spurs on April 15. Only one of the remaining games will be considered easy and that’ll be against Minnesota. New Orleans can’t overlook the game with the Timberwolves because it’ll be the 2nd of a back to back. The Pelicans have a record of 8-3 versus their remaining opponents but the high stakes of a spot in the Playoffs will make these games much tougher. On Tuesday, the Pelicans beat their potential First Round foe and the top NBA team record wise this season – Golden State (63-15) – but then got smoked by the Memphis Grizzlies last night. Both games were a complete contrast and if the Pelicans plan on seeing postseason play they can’t repeat their performance against Memphis.
The Phoenix Suns will certainly come to the Crescent City with plans on spoiling the playoff hopes of New Orleans. After losing to Dallas, the Suns were eliminated from postseason play. They currently have a 39-40 record so a winning season is still in the cards. The Pelicans and Suns split their first two matchups with both home teams winning close games.
After a day off the Pelicans will visit the Houston Rockets. The Pels currently hold the season advantage at 2-1. New Orleans won by 9 at home in December and then went on the road in January and downed the Rockets by 28. In their most recent matchup in New Orleans, James Harden controlled the show posting a 25-10-6 stat line in a 95-93 victory. The Rockets are still battling for the Southwest Division crown and home court advantage in the first round of the Playoffs. They’ll face the San Antonio Spurs on Friday and will have a day off before facing N.O. on Sunday.
New Orleans owns a 3-0 season advantage over Minnesota and hopes to sweep the season series. The Pels defeated the Timberwolves by double digits in 2 home games and won by 8 in Minnesota. The Pelicans can’t sleep on this game because the young T’Wolves will be looking to knock them off. Rookie standout Andrew Wiggins will have three chances to pad his Rookie of the Year Campaign in late season matchups with MVP candidates Steph Curry (Golden State), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).
Last but not least…the San Antonio Spurs. New Orleans will end their season at home against the red hot Spurs. Since February 27, the Spurs have a record of 19-3. They’re currently on a 9 game winning streak after trouncing Houston. Pop and The Crew have a return matchup against the Rockets in Houston on Friday and face the Phoenix Suns in San Antonio on Sunday before ending the season in NOLA. Like the Rockets, San Antonio is looking to win the Southwest Division and snatch up home court advantage in the process. Memphis (53-25) currently leads the race for 2nd in the Western Conference and the Southwest Division title, Houston (53-25) follows them at number 3 in the West and 2nd in the Division, San Antonio (53-26) is currently 6th in the West and 3rd in the Division while sitting 0.5 games behind both squads. The Spurs are currently down 2-1 in their season series with the Pelicans and it should be 3-0! In an early season game at San Antonio, the Pelicans got a game winning layup from AD to win by 1. Then the Pels beat the Spurs by 7 a day after Christmas in NOLA. The third matchup was on New Year Eve in San Antonio. After a very sluggish first half, the Pelicans ripped of a 32 point 3rd quarter. Late in the fourth quarter an Anthony Davis tip slam gave the Pelicans the lead. New Orleans found themselves unlucky as the lead would be short lived. With only 0.7 seconds left in the game and down by 2, San Antonio got the gift of all gifts as the Pelicans’ Omer Asik tipped in a game tying basket for the Spurs as the clock expired. San Antonio would go on to win by 2 thanks to a solid OT period from Manu Ginobili.
So now we get to the part where I state if the Pelicans will or won’t make the Playoffs. It simply comes down to motivation. Are the Pelicans motivated enough to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010 – 2011 season? My answer is yes, especially after getting demolished by the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Erasing that ugly performance along with a spot in the NBA Playoffs on the line should be all that is needed. They will once again get help from home crowd on Friday night. The players talked about the great home atmosphere against GSW and how much they fed off of the crowd’s energy. I expect the same to happen in the final two home matchups. The key on the road will be what the Pels get on the perimeter from Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon along with some timely play off of the bench. Ryan Anderson has been sluggish since his return and Norris Cole has lost his touch. They all will need to step up a notch in these last four. Monty Williams must balance out the minutes of his starters. He’s been guilty of not having a proper mix of starters and bench players on the court at the same time. He let the game against Memphis get away early due to this lapse. Will Anthony Davis be motivated in these last 4 games to prove why he’s been included in the MVP race this season? There’s no doubt in my mind that “The Brow” will be motivated for these last four. Davis is having the best statistical season of his young career – his numbers are up in every category and he’s top 10 in the league in per game categories for points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage – while garnering All-Star and MVP attention. The only thing left to seal this excellent personal season would be a trip to the Playoffs (the team’s first since Chris Paul left). We’re all anxious and ready to see AD take flight in the post season.