The Pelicans sit firmly in the driver’s seat with a 1.5 game lead over the Spurs and Trail Blazers for 10th in the West, and eight of their remaining 13 games are against opponents grouped around them in the standings.
- @ Spurs (today), vs Spurs (March 26)
- vs Lakers (March 27), @ Lakers (April 1)
- @ Trail Blazers (March 30), vs Trail Blazers (April 7)
- @ Clippers (April 3)
- @ Kings (April 5)
A few timely victories, especially among those first six listed matchups, and the Play-In Tournament should be close to a lock. Win the vast majority of these games, including two against the Lakers, and hosting the 9-10 Play-In game at home becomes a real possibility.
“You want to win the games on your schedule,” CJ McCollum said after yesterday’s practice. “Understand that some of those games may mean a little bit more in the standings and for the head-to-head matchups. But if we take care of business, we’ll give ourselves a chance to play in the Play-In game, hopefully at home, and try to get the 7 or 8 seed.”
Before we start dreaming about the potentially good scenarios though, the Pelicans must find a way to beat the Spurs for a first time this season.
As mentioned in the last preview, the Spurs have long been a problem.
The Spurs have dominated matchups from an all-time perspective (19-51) and it’s been a particularly lopsided affair of late. The Pelicans have beaten Gregg Popovich’s squad just twice in their past 10 meetings, including a 112-97 loss earlier this season.
Two wins in their last 11 matchups is glaring, however, adding several victories over the Spurs in this month would markedly reduce the stain of consistent losing to a division rival. Moreover, San Antonio looks quite beatable right now.
The Spurs have won four times in the 11 contests since the All-Star break. They needed a Lonnie Walker 3-pointer in the final second to outlast the Thunder 122-120 on Wednesday.
San Antonio’s defense has been uncharacteristically bad. In the first half of the season, their defensive rating clocked in at 110.6. Since, its ballooned to 117.8. That’s currently the fourth worst mark in the second half. That bodes well for the New Orleans offense which has functioned pretty darn good over this period.
The oddsmakers, though, are taking a prove it approach, listing the Pelicans as 2.5-point underdogs. That’s understandable considering they’re 0-2 against the Spurs this season, own a 12-21 away record and have multiple key players battling injury.
Devonte’ Graham (right hip soreness) and Jose Alvarado (left finger laceration) are listed as questionable.
While Brandon Ingram will miss his sixth straight game due to a sore hamstring, CJ McCollum expects to feel much better than he did in his 21-point performance against the Suns. Remember he was fresh off a bout with the coronavirus.
With Larry Nance Jr. and Zion Williamson still out, the Pelicans are far from being at full strength, but the guys that step out onto the court in San Antonio know what’s at stake. Getting up for one of the most meaningful contests in the last three years should not be an issue, right?
When: March 18, 2022, 7:30 p.m.
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM