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Grading the New Orleans Pelicans 2013-14 Schedule
Last week I laid out why the schedule was so important and gave you some specific things to look out for. Now that the schedule has been released, let’s take a look at the key factors that can mean the difference between a playoff appearance and just missing out.
1. Non-Division Western Conference Games
Play Four Times: Denver, Clippers, Jazz, Suns, Portland, Kings
Play Three Times (2 at home, 1 on road): Golden State, OKC
Play Three Times (1 at home, 2 on road): Lakers, Minnesota
Ideally, I would switch the Clippers and the Lakers, and maybe Minnesota and Denver, but other than that I am happy. The Pelicans get all the Western Conference punching bags four times and we only have to endure Lakers fans in the arena one time this season. Only having to go to Golden State once this year is big, because that is a long trip and it is a tough place to win.
2. Back to Backs
Road/Road – 10
Home/Road – 4
Road/Home – 5
Home/Home – 0
Nineteen is somewhat high (ten teams have more, 14 have less, 5 have the same), but having five Road/Home back to backs (the easiest of the back to backs) is four more than they had last year. The problem is the teams that they play on the second night of the back to backs. There really isn’t a cupcake in the group. Clippers, Heat, Rockets, etc. etc. Going 7-12 in the second game of back to backs this year should be considered a small victory.
3. Road Trips
The Pelicans have two five game road trips. The first one is December 15-23rd and features games against Denver, Golden State, the Clippers, Portland, and Sacramento. That will be a tough trip, for sure, but they four days off throughout that trip, so they should be rested at the very least. The second road trip will be February 26- March 4th and features Dallas, Phoenix, the Clippers, Sacramento and the Lakers. Easier competition, but only two days off on that trip.
No major east coast trip. Instead, the Pelicans play those teams two or three at a time, which makes sense because they are actually closer geographically to those teams than most Western Conference teams. That should help the Pelicans immensely, as they need to feast on the weak teams in the Eastern Conference to have any shot at the playoffs this year. That first west coast road trip will be tough, but if they can steal one of the first three games, they can take Portland and Sacramento to go 3-2.
Other Notes and Observations
– Six National TV Games total. Three on ESPN, three on NBATV. Only one of those games (Friday, February 7th against Minnesota) will be at home. The other five will be on the road, but are all winnable.
– Almost half (18) of the 41 home games will be on the weekend, so almost everybody should be able to get out to the arena at least a handful of times this season.
– If you are coming into town for Wrestlemania on April 6th, stay a couple of days and watch the Pelicans destroy the Phoenix Suns on April 9th.
– The Pelicans play 25 sets of ‘three games in four nights’ but only two sets of ‘four games in five nights’. Luckily, this shouldn’t have as much of an impact on a young team.
– The Pelicans play the Lakers twice by November 12th. Likely that they won’t have Kobe by then. Nice little break for the team.
– The end of the schedule is brutal. The last four games are against OKC twice and Houston twice. Here’s hoping that the Pelicans have a comfy lead for a playoff spot and/or those teams have put it on cruise control.
– March looks like the easiest month by far. A nice, long homestand coupled with some games against some projected cellar dwellers.
– Pelicans have a chance to go on a tear twice this season. They open up with a favorable schedule that sees games at San Antonio and at Memphis as the only games in which they will be considerable underdogs in the first 15 games. A large number of cupcakes in that stretch means that the Pelicans can start 10-5 or better. Also, the schedule coming out of the All-Star break is pretty favorable. Having the game in New Orleans should give the players an emotional boost, and the schedule front late February through late March provides the Pelicans with a chance to rack up wins.
– Again, the full schedule can be seen right here