Well friends, this is officially the end of the road for the Pelicans.
New Orleans will close their 2016-17 season against the Trailblazers in Portland. The outcome of this game is by and large irrelevant: Portland is locked into the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs; New Orleans is, as we all know, on the outside looking in — yet the game will broadcast nationally on ESPN at 9:30pm.
After a promising month of March, April has been a complete polar opposite for New Orleans. In March the Pelicans won double digit games for the first time in years; in April they have yet to win a game. With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins being withheld from play last night, the Pelicans lost their fifth straight game to the Lakers, who are inexplicably winning games when they should be racking up losses. But that’s a story for our sister site Silver Screen and Rolls.
When you’re playing out the season as the Pelicans are, resting your starters and delegating those minutes to young bench players is to be expected and that’s exactly how New Orleans handled the game in Los Angeles last night.
No starter (Jrue Holiday, Tim Frazier, Solomon Hill, Dante Cunningham and Alexis Ajinca) played 30 minutes last night. Instead those minutes were bequeathed to players like Cheick Diallo, Quinn Cook and Axel Toupane.
Diallo dazzled last night, even if he was on the wrong side of a Brandon Ingram dunk, scoring 19 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking a pair of shots. Diallo was near perfect from the floor shooting 9-10 and he showed off a nice repertoire of moves. Diallo flashed a midrange jumper that didn’t exist at the start of the year, a baseline jay, runners and a soft floater. As Oleh wrote last night, Diallo’s only played in four games this season but he’s averaged 13 points, 9 rebounds and a block while shooting 67 percent from the floor.
Hopefully tonight is more of the same for the Pelicans, except with a more favorable outcome. I wouldn’t count on a win though. We all know the Moda Center hasn’t been kind to the Pelicans as of late, and if that wasn’t enough, the Blazers have the best record in the league since March 1. Still, tonight’s the last time we’ll see the Pelicans play meaningful basketball till next October and we should try and enjoy one last ball night while we can.