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With Anthony Davis operating in peak form, New Orleans Pelicans positioned to make run at third seed in Western Conference

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Given the rest of the landscape, why not believe in the Pelicans?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the New Orleans Pelicans are on fire. Winners of seven straight, they currently sit fifth in the standings of the Western Conference, and although the race remains as tight as ever, there’s legitimate hope the Pelicans may finish with a good seed for the upcoming playoffs.

ESPN

This positive line of thinking is still rather novel. When the calendar flipped to 2018, no one was contemplating something like home court advantage. Deflating losses at home to the Knicks and Mavericks cast plenty of doubt and hurt the chances for a successful season because an even 18-18 record failed to inspire even the optimistic crowd.

Now, what do you think about a 17-8 mark? Infinitely better, right? Well, that’s the record reflecting the last two months of work by New Orleans. The Pelicans went 9-5 in January and then just wrapped up an 8-3 campaign in February, which is the highest winning percentage for the month in franchise history.

Since DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season, New Orleans has compiled an 8-5 record, but it’s impressive if allowing for an adjustment period following the lightning bolt that ruptured an important Achilles tendon. Losing a rotation player is problematic for most teams. Losing an All-NBA candidate tasked with carrying among the biggest of loads in the league is unfathomable. Yet, it appears the Pelicans have managed to circumvent the unthinkable thanks to an improvement in play across the roster but especially from Anthony Davis.

PTS REB STL BLK eFG% Deflections Recovered Loose Balls Contested Shots
Anthony Davis 1-27 thru 2-9 (6 games) 26.3 11.3 1.7 2.0 47.0% 2.2 1.0 12.0
Anthony Davis 2-10 thru 3-1 (7 games) 39.3 15.0 3.0 2.7 55.9% 3.9 2.6 17.0

Davis is currently in the midst of the best stretch of his career — which completely justifies his February Player of the Month Award today, but more importantly, it’s directly translated into the longest winning streak witnessed in New Orleans since the Chris Paul days. AD has been playing like an MVP frontrunner on both sides of the ball. That’s something the James Harden faithful fail to acknowledge, but it’s important to note if you give credit to the fact that the game is played on a 94-foot court.

Of course, before we get too ahead of ourselves, 21 games remain on the schedule and who’s to say the Pelicans can keep coming up on the fortunate end of all those closely-contested battles, that the roster continues to play at the necessary high levels and the team avoids any further injury pitfalls. Then again, much of the rest of the competition for the six seeds behind the Rockets and Warriors seems to be loaded with more difficult to answer questions.

  • The Minnesota Timberwolves could be without Jimmy Butler, their best player, for the rest of the season.
  • The San Antonio Spurs are in free fall, losing seven of ten games in February, and there is no definitive timetable on the return of Kawhi Leonard.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers have been led wonderfully by Damian Lillard of late, but they’ve compiled a woeful 11-21 record against the top-16 teams in the league and they’ve got the fifth hardest strength of schedule remaining.
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder have not been firing on all cylinders since losing Andre Roberson, Carmelo Anthony no longer plays like a star and they’ve got the sixth hardest strength of schedule remaining.
  • Although Pau Millsap just returned from injury, the Denver Nuggets have 13 away games remaining and they’ve been pitiful on the road thus far (9-19).
  • The Los Angeles Clippers have played poorly against better competition (11-20 vs top 16), have been bitten by the injury bug all season and it doesn’t sound like Danilo Gallinari nor Avery Bradley are set to return soon.
  • The Utah Jazz, who entered the All-Star weekend on an 11-game winning streak, have lost three of four since the break. Further, Donovan Mitchell’s efficiency has slipped over the last month, perhaps pointing to him hitting the rookie wall.

One quarter of the season remains, where do you see the New Orleans Pelicans finishing among their competition?