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2016 NBA Draft: Pelicans one loss from securing sixth best lottery odds

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Lose two more times and things get very, very interesting.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans could not have asked for more on Saturday night. They lost handily to the Phoenix Suns, the Minnesota Timberwolves pulled out a road win against Lillard time thanks to Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Sacramento Kings closed out the Arco Arena with an upset victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Three relatively improbable outcomes all broke the Pels way in the span of just six hours.

Let's take a look at where five teams stand. Farewell Denver Nuggets, your 33 victories put you beyond the Pelicans horizon. On the other hand, welcome back Timberwolves, who could pull even with the Pelicans by the end of April 13th. Where does each team sit right now, and how do the various computer projections see the remainder of the season playing out?

Timberwolves Pelicans Kings Knicks Bucks
Current Wins 28 30 32 32 32
ESPN BPI 29 31 33 33 33
Basketball Reference 29.1 31.0 32.9 32.7 33.3
Five Thirty Eight 29 31 33 33 33
numberFire 29.0 31.0 32.9 32.7 33.5

Thanks to the Kings win last night the Pelicans can seal no worse than sixth in the NBA Draft Lottery, and 63 ping pong ball combinations, with one more loss. Winning out means the chance of a tie with the Kings, Knicks, and/or Bucks at 32 victories. The most interesting outcome could be if New Orleans loses out.

Timberwolves Pelicans Kings Knicks Bucks
Sunday
Raptors at 76ers
Monday Rockets Bulls at Suns at Magic
Tuesday at Pacers
Wednesday Pelicans at Timberwolves at Rockets Pacers

If the Timberwolves beat the Houston Rockets (who recently lost to the Phoenix Suns at home) and the Pelicans lose to the Chicago Bulls on Monday we could be in for a tanking battle for the ages on Wednesday night. A Pelicans victory would mean 63 combinations and guaranteed sixth position going into the lottery for the Pelicans. A Timberwolves victory ties the Pelicans and Wolves at 75 combinations a piece with the 76th (and fifth in the lottery) decided at a drawing held Friday. Here's a video of the process from 2015. While the odds are 50/50 it is not a coin flip.

The Indiana Pacers can eliminate the Bulls from playoff contention tomorrow with a win over the Brooklyn Nets. However, for an organization as proud as Chicago I would not be surprised if Fred Hoiberg and company still push for a win in the Smoothie King Center on Monday to ensure they finish with a record of .500 or better. For now let's hope the Milwaukee Bucks take care of the 76ers, eliminating one more potential tie in case the Pelicans reel off a couple victories to end the season.