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Special effort and good fortune likely required in Pelicans matchup against 76ers

New Orleans is sliding in the standings again, yet they must deal with another Beast from the East

New Orleans Pelicans v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

After winning four of five games, the New Orleans Pelicans have proceeded to lose four of five. For a team needing to climb the standings to improve their odds of playing past the regular season, that’s just disappointing. And this trend doesn’t figure to reverse tonight with the Philadelphia 76ers in town for a matchup.

The 76ers sit second in the Eastern Conference race and they’re clearly one of the best teams in the league. While they haven’t played as well of late as earlier in the season, realize a 7-4 record in their last 11 games includes a grueling road trip and they were often without the services of Joel Embiid.

“That road trip, starting out a road trip with a back-to-back home and a road, playing home and going to New York, and then going out west, and playing every other day, that was a tough trip,” Doc Rivers said yesterday after his team’s practice.

However, one of the favorites for the 2021 MVP is back in the rotation and Philly’s squad has received some rest, enjoying a couple of days off after their latest win in Boston.

This recipe doesn’t bode well for the Pelicans, who remain in the bottom third defensively and now the offensive efficiency has slipped a bit over the last 15 games.

New Orleans recently received a much-needed boost with the return of Zion Williamson to the lineup, but it didn’t impact the last two outcomes. They lost by 16 in Atlanta on Tuesday and then were smoked a day later in Brooklyn by 28 points.

Now the Pelicans must deal with the best defense in the NBA over the last 15 games on Friday night, and there’s a chance they’ll be without two of their top three scorers. Brandon Ingram, who has missed five straight games due to a right first MTP irritation, and Lonzo Ball (left hip flexor soreness) are questionable to play. Kira Lewis Jr. sits on that list as well.

If none of these three players suit up, where are the points going to come from for a team already without Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart? Forget scoring 40 points for the first time in his young career, Zion might have to go for 50+. However, that sure feels like mission impossible against the length and athleticism of Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Dwight Howard and Matisse Thybulle.

The Pelicans still remain in contention for a spot in the Play-In Tournament, trailing the Warriors by two games and the Spurs, three, but only 21 games are left on the docket to make up the ground. Cracking a dent in these deficits Friday night seems like a long shot at best.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (22-29) vs Philadelphia 76ers (35-16)

When: April 9, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Bally Sports NOLA

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.