Here are the latest Western Conference standings via NBA.com (Sorry ESPN, but your new layout isn't very user-friendly anymore):
New Orleans has made up some serious ground over the last week as the Pelicans have won 3 straight games, meanwhile OKC has lost 3 out of their previous 4. Currently, the Pels sit only 1.5 games behind the Thunder for the 8th seed. The Phoenix Suns are effectively out of the race having lost 4 straight and now sit 4 games in back of the final playoff spot.
OKC relinquishing ground
As it was mentioned last Thursday, OKC is in the midst of 7 difficult games and they've got 3 remaining: @MEM, HOU and SAS. I've mentioned several times the Thunder could conceivably go 2-5 over this span, and that's their current pace, but it would be a lot more beneficial if they go 1-6.
At this point in the season though, it's difficult to assume every team will continue to play their full roster. It's become standard operating procedure for teams to selectively rest key players over the remaining 2 weeks of a season. For instance, will Gregg Popovich decide to rest a few of his starters against the Thunder next week as their game falls on the front end of a back-to-back? His game will be on the road, where teams generally don't mind resting their stars as they won't be upsetting their hometown fans.
Conversely, the Spurs face the Rockets in 2 straight match-ups after their Thunder meeting. Will Popovich try and win those games so as to possibly move up in the standings to fetch a home court advantage or does he hide his true rotation so as to throw off the Rockets during the post-season? So many variables!
New Orleans sits in must-win territory
The best thing for New Orleans to do is treat every game (just eight remain) as a must-win and walk away with nothing but victories. They only sit 1 game behind the Thunder in the loss column so they still control a lot of their own destiny.
Regardless, the team needs to leave Sacramento with a win as the rest of the schedule doesn't get any easier: @POR, GSW, @MEM, PHX, @HOU, @MIN, SAS. That's five games against surefire Western Conference playoff teams!
Having Ryan Anderson back will help. Word is Jrue Holiday is nearing a return too. The Pelicans will need to play their basketball of the season just to give themselves a chance for the magical chance at playing beyond the regular season. However, it would help if they were to catch some breaks, say their remaining opponents deciding to rest players and Oklahoma City continuing to struggle.
Pray for some lucky dice. Geaux Pels!