Unlike his previous return from a nagging shoulder injury, Anthony Davis was epic last night to the tune of 39 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 8 glorious blocks. His performance helped the Pelicans keep ground with the Thunder, who incidentally were also graced by a spirited and much needed eye-popping statistical line by their superstar, Russell Westbrook.
As of this morning, here are the current standings for the Western Conference (courtesy of ESPN):
In a week's time, New Orleans has gained a game on the 8th spot in the playoffs and 21 games remain for both the Pelicans and Thunder. Normally, examining strength of schedule data would make sense, but given how New Orleans has bucked common sense for much of the year, it seems a rather fruitless endeavor.
Besides, for the first time in his young career, Anthony Davis can smell the playoffs.
"We know what position we’re in. We know that we’re battling for the eighth spot, we’re fighting. All of these guys have a lot of heart to come in and make shots and make plays for one another. It’s so fun. It starts with me as the leader of the team to make sure that I have to do whatever it takes to get this team going."
The emotions he has displayed during the last month or so has noticeably been on the rise, culminating last night with a countless number of fist pumps. Do you think it's wise to bet against the NBA's best young phenom?
Golden State fans certainly don't. Among the bubble teams, they believe New Orleans is 3 times as likely to make the playoffs as Phoenix. Smart bet. The Pelicans are 13-7 in their last 20 games; meanwhile, the Suns have gone 8-12. Two teams headed in opposite directions, despite the current standings.
However, 21 games equates to a quarter of the season -- so much could still happen within this time span. Any given team within striking distance above New Orleans could conceivably encounter some form of bad luck, whether through injury(ies), a badly timed slump or an unfriendly stretch of the schedule.
And any entity who keeps pointing to some imaginary number of total wins is just being foolhardy. To say the Pelicans need to win 50 games on the season, requires they finish 17-4 from this point forward. On it's own (and by design) it sounds intimidating, but it completely lacks context. Is it a given the Thunder are going to go 16-5?
Of course not.
Don't let anyone deceive you, the Pelicans post-season chances are still very much up for grabs. Enjoy the ride!