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NBA Standings: Pelicans grab playoff destiny with both hands

New Orleans has not seen playoff basketball since 2011. The chances of it occurring increased tremendously last night.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Five games remain on the schedule for the New Orleans Pelicans. Thanks to taking care of business against sub .500 teams and a huge upset victory over the Golden State Warriors last night the standings having taken a huge turn for the better. If you're a Pelican fan. Last time we took at look at the standings the Pelicans were 1.5 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder overall and trailing by one game in the loss column. Things have changed.

Since last Thursday the Pelicans are 2-1 with wins over the Sacramento Kings and before mentioned Warriors. Meanwhile the Thunder are in the midst of a schedule induced swoon; dropping games to the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs. While Oklahoma City undoubtedly has the easier track from here on out, they also need help to get back into the playoff hunt. The Pelican magic number is now four with five games left. Yes, they can afford a loss at this moment.

Standings

Just because the Pelicans can afford a loss does not mean it is at all advisable. Tonight, they take on the Memphis Grizzlies, a team they historically match-up rather well against. So far the season series stands at 2-1 Pelicans with the home team winning every game. Reaching into the way back machine I took a hard look at the Pelicans loss in Memphis early this season. Long story short, the Pelicans missed a ton of open shots. 4-22 on open 3-point attempts in a 12 point game is pretty critical.

The current Pelicans have had no problems knocking down 3-point attempts. Since the All-Star break, the Pels are shooting 41.1% behind the arc led by Eric Gordon and Quincy Pondexter. Saying Pondexter is hot is an understatement of historic proportions.

The Grizzlies have much to play for as the battle for home court (and to avoid the San Antonio Spurs at all costs in the first round) continues in the 2nd through 6th slots of the Western Conference. Just a game and a half separate the second place Rockets from the Spurs in sixth. Of course those two teams are about to play each other twice. In a row. Beginning tonight.

Every Pelican win (or Thunder loss) reduces the magic number for New Orleans.