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Pelicans stuck in neutral among NBA power rankings

A 2-1 week wasn't enough to convince national media folks to move New Orleans up

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty, but the New Orleans Pelicans bounced back with a 2-1 week following Mardi Gras. In truth they left a win on the table as they had one in hand against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night before Kawhi Leonard took Jrue Holiday’s lunch money. Despite an awful start out of the All-Star Break (three straight losses and DeMarcus Cousins earning a suspension), the Pels find themselves 3.5 games out of the 8th spot in the Western Conference. To drop just one game farther back with the schedule they had is somewhat of an accomplishment.

However, the manner in which they won last night should concern New Orleans fans. The defensive intensity appears to be tied somewhat to the quality of the opponent. Not a good thing when the Pelicans most likely path to a playoff bid is by racking up victories over sub .500 opposition. The Los Angeles Lakers were ghastly most of the second half and still found themselves with a chance to pull off a comeback in the final minutes.

Role players beyond E’Twaun Moore are in witness protection. Solomon Hill has “on court” seats. Donatas Motiejunas played just six minutes this week after being a fixture in the rotation before the All-Star Break. Reggie Williams is occupying a roster spot and hasn’t played in over a week. Jarrett Jack is likely done for the year, joining Omri Casspi and Quincy Pondexter on the trash heap.

The schedule is going to eventually get easier, but not this week. Up next, the Utah Jazz on a back-to-back tonight followed by the new look Toronto Raptors (minus Kyle Lowry) on Wednesday and a trip to Charlotte on Saturday. 19 games remain and just eight feature opponents currently .500 or better.

Last Week: 21 - This Week: 21

The Pelicans will have the chance to really make up some ground starting March 14, playing eight of their final 16 games against the five teams between them and a playoff spot. But they can't put themselves in too deep a hole before then, and a loss to the Lakers on Sunday may have done just that. But after blowing a 14-point lead to the worst team in the West, they got the buckets and the stops they needed to stay within shouting distance of eighth place. Their offense continues to struggle, but they've remaining a top-10 defensive team since the break, having held their last three opponents under a point per possession.


Last Week: 21 - This Week: 22

The Pelicans were 2 1/2 games out of the West's final playoff berth when they acquired DeMarcus Cousins. As rough as Boogie's indoctrination to life with the Pels has been -- with losses in his first four games, one suspension (due to his 18th tech of the season) and two foul-outs -- New Orleans is only a game worse off heading into the new week. As you watched crunch time Sunday night in Los Angeles, with the Pels squandering all of a late 14-point lead, you couldn't help but think that their playoff hopes were being extinguished for good at Staples Center. Don't write 'em off yet, though. Jrue Holiday played more in the manner against the Lakers that New Orleans needs him to play alongside Anthony Davis and Cousins. The Brow, furthermore, is averaging 33.2 PPG since the All-Star break (No. 2 in the league) and turns 24 on Saturday. Maybe some birthday luck is coming his way.

Sports Illustrated

Last Week: 24 - This Week: 24

The Pelicans finally won their first game with DeMarcus Cousins, but they remain a work in progress. Now there’s a scenario in my mind where the Pelicans tank hard, sneak into the top three and wind up with Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball throwing lobs to Boogie and Brow. That would be fine with me.

CBS Sports

Last Week: 24 - This Week: 27

They have Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and the 29th-ranked offense since trading for Cousins. It's too early to call it a disaster, But, boy, does this start to look an awful lot like a disaster.