If Pelicans (and Their MVP) Want Playoffs, They Are Going to Have to Earn It

Published: April 6, 2015

The Thunder have lost 5 of their last 6, helping the Pelicans to propel themselves back into the playoff race once again. New Orleans has done their part too, beating the teams they were supposed to beat on a recent 4-game winning streak that now puts them back in control of their own playoff destiny with just six games left to go. But the road gets harder from here, and the Pelicans can’t count on anybody doing them a favor as they head down the stretch. They are going to have to do it themselves.

The #1 question I have gotten every day for the last week or so is, “Do you think the Warriors will rest their starters when they play us?” Or substitute the Spurs for the Warriors, and I even got a few Rockets, assuming they somehow clinch the second seed by the time the Pelicans play them. First, I have no earthly idea. And second, it seems like a question that is generated from fear. The underlying premise being that the person who asks doesn’t believe that the Pelicans can beat those teams if both squads are going all out. It is as if the question asker wants to sneak into the playoffs without having to do some heavy lifting.

And who can blame them actually? I mean, if the goal is to win games, then you want to give yourself the best chance possible to do so. Playing the Warriors without Stephen Curry is much easier than playing them with him. Add to that the fact that the Pelicans have only won two games against the top-6 teams in the Western Conference since Jrue went down, and the fact that they have to play those teams four times in the next six games, and you can see where the fear is coming from.

But the Pelicans can’t back into these playoffs. I mean, technically they can, but we shouldn’t want them to. This team hasn’t had many signature wins lately, and they are in need of a few to finish off their season. Making the playoffs is the type of goal that seems meaningful, but in reality it does not necessarily reflect how you are performing. Playing at the highest level you are capable of is the type of goal that actually has some meaning. And that should be the goal for this team as they head into these final six games. And that all starts with Anthony Davis.

It hurts to say, but AD has been struggling lately. Since returning from his most recent ankle injury, Davis is shooting just 49.2% from the field and 70.2% from the line – both huge drops from his pre All-Star break numbers (55% and 83%). His 16+ foot jumper has hovered right around 43% all year, but is just 35% since he returned and his numbers in the paint have gone down as well. Make no mistake, he is still playing at a high level and his raw numbers are excellent, but if the Pelicans want to see the postseason AD has to not only be what he was earlier in the season; he has to be better.

This is the time of year where teams ride their star players into the playoffs and the Pelicans revolve around Anthony Davis. When he is playing at the MVP level we have seen at different times this season, they are close to unbeatable. For the Pelicans to make the playoffs, this is the guy that they will need. The schedule is no longer full of creme puffs. Yes, Minnesota is one of the six games and Phoenix at home is another, but the four other match ups are absolutely brutal: Golden State and San Antonio at home, Memphis and Houston on the road. At minimum, the Pelicans will have to go 2-2 in those four games, and they can’t count on those teams resting guys to make it easier.

The Pelicans will have to earn their spot in the playoffs, and quite frankly, that is the way it should be. If they want to be categorized among the top teams, they need to show that they can beat the top teams, and this is their chance. So far this season, the Pelicans are 6-3 against the three Southwest division rivals they will face down the stretch, but have yet to win against the Warriors. Five of those six wins, however, happened before Jrue went down and the Pelicans have not shown they can be an elite team without him on a regular basis.

They get their chance starting tomorrow night. It’s all on them (and their MVP) to prove that they belong.


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