‘Win or go home’ is an expression normally reserved for climatic Game 7s yet one can’t help but think it most appropriately describes the Pelicans current rocky situation.
New Orleans has nine games left to play on the 2016-17 schedule. They trail both Portland and Denver by an uncomfortable margin of four games. A postseason berth has hovered far off on the horizon for practically the entire season, but it has never looked any further away than it does at this moment in time.
During the 2014-15 season, New Orleans overcame a 3-game deficit over that schedule’s remaining 10 games to catch and pass Oklahoma City on the final day of the regular season. A 7-3 W/L record was just enough to clip the Thunder’s 4-6 limp to the finish.
Although the current team has won six of their last eight, the Pelicans have failed to gain any ground on the 8th spot in Western Conference over their last 10 games. Additionally, not one but two teams sit ahead of New Orleans and both by a margin greater than that faced two years ago. One doesn’t have to be a math major to realize the meager odds facing Alvin Gentry’s group.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not all that bothered by the near hopelessness of the Pelicans reality. Maybe it’s the fact that two straight seasons began so dismally; the repeated lowest of lows right out of the gates numbing fans quickly to any further pain. We all hoped for the accompanying highest of highs but were never truly surprised it see it fail to metamorphize.
However, unlike the finish of last season, this one is quickly proving to be a joy to watch. Anthony Davis has already eclipsed his previous mark of games played in the season and he’s doing it in grand style. Last night, Nikola Jokic had absolutely no answer for the Brow.
After being all over the map in regards to efficiency throughout the season, Jrue Holiday has settled down here in March, posting respectable statistics without the cratering shooting percentages and obscene amount of turnovers. And, oh, that sublime, great defensive hustle!
Jordan Crawford, a 28-year-old signee out of the D-League, appears to be a lock to wind up as New Orleans fourth leading scorer. This despite a role off the bench averaging a paltry 21.6 minutes per game.
Lastly, there’s Boogie. There’s a chance he may miss his fourth game in New Orleans, and conversely the Pelicans may have a 4-0 record in such games. I don’t bloody care and neither should you. DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t been a consistent All-Star producer every night wearing our favorite uniform, but he’s shown more than enough flashes to give hope of something really special next season. If you can’t see it, I advise making an appointment with your local optometrist.
Before we get to next season, though, the Utah Jazz stand in the way on Monday night. Correction: the playoff-bound Utah Jazz. Quinn Snyder’s team has finally put it all together and they’re a lock to win the Northwest division. Plus, they have a good chance to earn home field advantage in the first round -- quite an accomplishment for a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011-12.
By now you know the names: Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, George Hill, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood. This starting five is young, good and likely to remain together for the foreseeable future. Thus, expect Utah to be a constant fixture in future playoff battles.
Earlier this month the Pelicans witnessed first hand the strength of this Utah group — Defense. An 88-83 loss was filled with a variety of miscues: a 35.7 FG%, a 30.3 3FG% and 20 turnovers. Thanks to a first class defensive effort, New Orleans put up abundance of blah so there’s no need to further rehash it. Instead, let’s hope for a remarkable turnaround. Believe it or not, the Pelicans are averaging 113.1 points per game over their last eight contests.
Yes, the Jazz have struggled of late but the game is once more in Utah, where the Pelicans struggle immensely to post victories. Over the last five seasons, New Orleans has managed to win just twice in nine games. If Gentry’s squad wants to keep a discernible heartbeat in this playoff race, they’ll have to make it three wins in ten.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz
Where: Vivant Smart Home Arena — Salt Lake City, UT
When: March 27, 2017, 9:30 PM Central
How: TNT, 99.5 FM WRNO