The Pelican Playoff Hunt – Gaining Ground in The West

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Published: January 16, 2015

It’s been a full week since the last installment of the Pelican playoff chase and not much has changed. There has been some very intriguing events to note across the four teams battling hard for the 7th and 8th seeds to the playoffs.

If you haven’t already, please make sure you check out Chris Romaguera’s piece on the Pelicans schedule. It covers a lot of what we talk about here (and you’ll see this briefly highlighted again).

The week that was…

Since last week the Pels have pretty much kept the same gap between themselves and the Suns. After an extremely difficult schedule the Pelicans had a chance against some easier opponents (Hornets and Celtics) and blew them.

Having said that, they did get solid wins against the Grizzlies and Pistons who are playing some very good basketball recently.

Meanwhile the Spurs and Suns duked it out which was very important for the Pelicans. The Suns lost, meaning that New Orleans gained a little bit of ground (or rather when they unexpectedly lost they maintained distance).

OKC has more or less had a week “off” playing last against Utah on the 9th of January.

15th Jan - Playoff Standings

Playoff standings in the Western Conference – 15th January 2015

The above table tells a clear story, New Orleans has to make a run – now!

The Pelicans have arguably one of the easiest schedules over the next 5 games (this actually extends further too with games against Minny, Philly and Denver). January is a kind month to the Pels and it’s quite likely why so many are frustrated they continue to hang around the .500 mark.

Phoenix’s schedule continue to get harder as to this point they’ve had the 2nd easiest schedule while New Orleans has had the 2nd hardest.

15th Jan - Upcoming Schedule

 

Upcoming schedule from 15th January – 25th January

Green = easy

Orange = medium

Red = Difficult/Will have to earn it/No-chance

Pelican’s upcoming schedule

Outlining further to what we were saying before the Pellies have a slew of winnable games. Yet, as noted by many fans they seem to have little interest in winning these (especially against the East). But that’s the task they have in front of them.

Once the Eastern road trip is over New Orleans returns home to the Lakers and Timberwolves, two of the worst teams in the Western Conference.

You’ll remember the Pelicans obliterating the T’Wolves a month ago.

The others upcoming schedule

After taking on Minnesota and the bad LA team (who would of thought we’d be talking about the Lakers?) the Suns have a brutal upcoming schedule.

A five game home stand that includes: The Blazers, Rockets, Clippers, Wizards, Bulls, Warriors, Grizzlies and Blazers.

If you think that’s over a couple months period… well, think again my friend because it aint. That’s all in a row.

My… god…

Well, that’s what happens when you play in the Western Conference and have the 2nd easiest schedule up until now. Things are going to get thrown onto your doorstep without little you can do about it.

If there was ever a time for New Orleans to slip back into the playoffs it’s over the next 3 weeks. Phoenix has a tough task ahead and it’s anybody’s guess how they’ll fair.

News and noteworthy things (our links open up a new tab)

Spurs

  • The world champions of basketball visited the White House this week. Obama praised them for their diversity and other such things – like hiring the first female full-time assistant coach in Becky Hammond.
  • For the love of all sanity please check out this video of the Spurs as Special Forces, it’s rather realistic.
  • Kawai Leonard is out indefinitely, Patty Mills has returned and is firing on all cylinders (go Australia!) and Marco Belinelli missed Wednesday’s game against Charlotte with a strained groin. Also note that Gregg Popovich likes to rest his veterans from time to time which could cost them a game. That will likely happen less and less as we head to the end of the season.

Suns

Pelicans

  • Jrue Holiday is out day-to-day which means nobody has any idea when he’ll return. I would expect him to be out no more than a week (report indicates it is a right ankle inflammation). It’s the same leg he had surgery on last season.
  • The Pelicans signed Nate Wolters to a 10-day contract – expect him to see the floor in a back up role similar to Gal Mekel.
  • Quincy Pondexter was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies and had a solid first outing: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 three’s and solid defense. Just what the doctor ordered.

Thunder

  • No real news for the Thunder once again. There will likely be plenty of news as we heat up towards the All-Star break.

Predicted Playoff Standings

15th Jan - Predicted Playoff Standings

Predicted playoff standings up until the 23rd of January

By the 23rd of January I would expect New Orleans to gain steady ground on the Suns.

Long term though I would say over the next 3 weeks you’ll see the Pelicans finally get back into the top-8 with the Suns facing such a tough schedule.

The Spurs will likely hold down the 7th seed and I would expect even the Thunder to possibly overtake the Suns too by early February.

It’s not to say that Phoenix won’t win games, but I would say they won’t fair as well as they’d like.

I think as a whole the notion that the Pelicans are completely out of the playoff race are quite misguided and rather short-sighted. Yes, it won’t be easy for them to get back into the top-8. However, Phoenix will be sliding and if New Orleans can keep themselves ahead of the Thunder they will be back into the top-8 just in time for the All-Star break.

After that they can refocus and the task at hand will be clear. I certainly think they have more than a shot.

One Comment

  1. Caffeinedisaster

    January 16, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Thunder news:
    <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>The Hornets are no longer involved in a potential trade between the Thunder and Nets, via <a href=”https://twitter.com/Chris_Broussard”>@Chris_Broussard</a> <a href=”http://t.co/jPeRDFve87″>http://t.co/jPeRDFve87</a></p>&mdash; NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ESPNNBA/status/556122626494857218″>January 16, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

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