The New Orleans Pelicans, losers of three straight, sit 6.5 games out of the playoff picture. If the Rockets remain 8th in the NBA standings, the Pelicans are actually staring at a 7.5 game deficit because Houston owns the tiebreaker. With 22 contests left on the docket, Mount Everest appears an easier climb.
That said, New Orleans has not quit from an effort standpoint. Trust me, that's good, and not from just an entertainment perspective. According to team insiders, locker room cultures are a real thing so for Anthony Davis or any of his teammates to tune out or worse, become disgruntled, that could negatively impact the future more than dropping a spot or two in the draft lottery.
Players who will be on the roster next season must still utilize the rest of the year to get better in aspects, and this includes listening and continuing to learn from the entire coaching staff. In all likelihood, Alvin Gentry, Darren Erman and others will be back.
Currently sitting 9th in the standings, the Utah Jazz are still very much in the playoff picture, despite having lost five straight games and 8 of their last 10. They are probably happy that Saturday's game will be their last one of their road trip.
Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood certainly can't be blamed much for the latest woes in Salt Lake City. Over the last ten games, the trio has averaged close to 53 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. The problem has been the rest of their personnel. Fellow starters, Rudy Gobert and Raul Neto, are not offensive options, and the bench has failed to pick up the slack. For the Jazz to emerge victorious, someone outside of their Big 3 is going to have to step up.
3 Keys to Watch
- Bench battle. On the season, the Pelicans reserves average 42.7 points, the most in the NBA. The Jazz rank 21st with 33.5 ppg, but over their last 10 games, that figure is much closer to 27 points. The loss of Alec Burks has been magnified more than ever because Trey Burke and several of his teammates have been struggling over the last month.
- Turnovers. In wins, New Orleans averages 11.9 turnovers, the best mark by far in the league. In losses, that number balloons to 14.1. As we've witnessed during the last three losses, turnovers down the stretch of games have been one of the biggest contributing factors in the Pelicans leaving arenas without victories.
- Three-point attempts. The Pelicans are averaging 24.3 shots from behind the arc in 2015-16. In their first three meetings against the Jazz this season, they hoisted only 19.0 3PA per game. Although New Orleans connected on over 40% of their looks, I'm sure Gentry would like to see them add a few more to that total.