Pelicans’ Chance to Curb Their Road Woes

Published: January 15, 2015

Roadtrips are often looked at as a time when basketball teams can gel together. Find their own. They spend days at a time on the road, away from the comfort and distractions of home. Just the team. Us against the world. The San Antonio Spurs use their annual rodeo road trip as a platform to launch into some ungodly winning streak that rockets them through the standings. The phrase “rodeo road trip” has become synonymous with “pain” for other Western Conference teams. The best teams use their road trips to become a better team.

The Pelicans are in the hardest division in basketball. That is not up for debate. The other four teams in the division are currently in the top -7 in the Western Conference, and are all but guaranteed to make the playoffs. According to the website Prediction Machine, the Pelicans have had the second toughest schedule in the NBA. And while this will ease up, because of their division, this won’t ease up that much. The team needs to take advantage of any break they get, and this upcoming stretch is their best bet.

Their current road trip is their biggest of the season, but features many winnable games. On this East coast swing, the team should be able to make up ground (though they started off poorly by losing to the Boston Celtics 108-100 on Monday.) The team needs to take advantage of this stretch (and the large homestand that follows shortly afterwards.) But to do this, the Pelicans have to buck some negative trends that have hurt them this season.

The Pelicans are 12-6 against teams under .500 as of 1/14/15. While that may seem good, it isn’t great. Besides the sleeping-giant Spurs, the Pelicans are behind every other playoff-contending team (and essentially tied with the Phoenix Suns) in this category. The Pelicans have to be better. Golden State and Portland’s records are fueled by feeding off these kinds of teams, with 23-1 and 24-2 records against those same kind of opponents. To paraphrase Marc Stein’s committee of one power rankings for this week, “should these teams be punished for beating inferior opponents, no”. An old basketball adage goes; good teams take care of business.

The Pelicans also have to be better on the road. Their 6-14 road record won’t cut it in a near historically great Western Conference. Every team in the top-8 has a winning record on the road. The Pelicans won’t have a better chance to improve on that, then against teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks in this upcoming week.

The Pelicans also have to beat up on the Eastern Conference, something they haven’t done of late. Prior to last night’s victory against the Detroit Pistons, the Pelicans are a hilariously (but really, not funny) bad 0-7 against the East on the road, highlighted by blowing games late to the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics within the last week. The Pels have to curb this in order to make a serious playoff push.

After losing to the Celtics on Monday, Coach Monty Williams said “I’m not doing a good job of getting our guys to play the same way every game…It’s plagued us all year long.” Williams likes to reference the San Antonio Spurs as a goal, and it is obvious to see why. Williams has connections with the team, they are the defending NBA champions, and they’ve been the pinnacle of success for over 15 years now. This is a great time to start emulating the Spurs. If the Pelicans can use this trip to get a couple of games over .500, the team can start sincerely talking about making the playoffs.


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