The New Orleans Pelicans (46-34) are on the cusp of the 2018 playoffs, needing just a lone win to guarantee playing deeper into April and possibly beyond.
The first opportunity to punch that postseason ticket comes Monday night against the Los Angles Clippers (42-38), but honestly, lets hope New Orleans jumps at the chance instead of waiting to beat the San Antonio Spurs on the last day of the regular season. We’ve been put through the wringer enough, fans deserve a break!
In their previous game over the weekend, Los Angeles was eliminated from the playoff race after suffering a 134-115 defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. Although the end of the regular season is still a few days away, Doc Rivers has seemingly already held his season-ending presser.
“I have never been more proud of a team that didn’t make the playoffs,” Coach Doc Rivers said, abandoning his customary practice of fielding questions to make an opening statement. “This team has been through so much all year, so many more things that people do not know.”
One has to think that playing for a desirable prize for weeks and then in an instant it’s suddenly not up for grabs has to change a person’s psyche overnight. With nothing left to play for, these Clippers should not resemble the same team that has been scrapping for every loose ball, contesting all shots and just generally fighting to the bitter end to keep adding wins to the overall record.
Another thing that could be tilted in the Pelicans favor is the availability of the Clippers roster. Rivers alluded to a number of his players dealing with hidden injuries.
For instance, Rivers revealed that center DeAndre Jordan and reserve guard Lou Williams probably shouldn’t have played Saturday because of ankle injuries. Jordan’s had been bothering him for more than a month; Williams’ had troubled him since Thursday’s loss to the Utah Jazz.
With no pressing reason to throw players operating at less than 100% health onto the court, New Orleans might catch a break or two despite the fact that Rivers hopes to use as many of his regulars as possible to be fair to other postseason contenders.
Doc Rivers on "protecting the league" and plan to play spoiler against the Pelicans Monday pic.twitter.com/EgDI0tOTAd— Law Murray! (@LawMurrayTheNU) April 7, 2018
It’s noble to want to adhere to some coaching code, but moot if Jordan or Lou should have missed the game just days ago. Protecting the league? Protect your players! :)
At the end of the day though, the Pelicans need to approach the contest against the Clippers like they have any other over the last month — needing to put forth their best foot forward in hopes of leaving with a win. Thus, forget any keys to victory. Anthony Davis needs to show up. So too Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and all rotation members. New Orleans needs to bring it in precisely the same fashion as they did on Saturday when the shocked the world and handed the Golden State Warriors a 126-120 loss.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Clippers
Where: Staples Arena
When: 9:30 pm Central
How: ESPN, 99.5 FM WRNO