Pelicans are seeking improvement

Zachary Brandwein, Contributor

After dropping the last two games in overtime and losing three of their last four, the New Orleans Pelicans are not in good shape looking down the home stretch of the season. Since March 29, two of five wins thus far have come against teams with winning records — the Philadelphia 76ers April 9 and the Boston Celtics March 29. The Pelicans are at an important place in their season if they want to make the playoffs, as the top six teams for each division are guaranteed a spot in the postseason while the next four teams compete in a play–in round for the seventh and eighth seeds. With Stephen Curry going on a tear, the Golden Gate Warriors have pulled themselves to .500 with 29 wins. With four of their last five games resulting in wins, the team earned ninth place in the western conference. The last playoff spot is currently held by the San Antonio Spurs, who have won four of their last six games including a 26-point margin of victory over the second place Phoenix Suns. Currently, the Pelicans are three games behind the Spurs and four games behind the Warriors. Both teams are at .500, while the Pelicans are seeking improvement, sitting at a .439. 

In both overtime losses, the Pelicans kept the game close. The score was either tied or favoring the Pelicans entering the fourth quarter. Against the New York Knicks, the game was tied at the end of the third while the Washington Wizards were down by three against the Pelicans in the third quarter. The last time the Pelicans outscored an opponent in the fourth quarter was their April 11 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers; prior to that, in a 28-point blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets where Kyrie Irving was limited to 30 minutes during which he scored 24 pts, Kevin Durant had 19 and James Harden did not play. Basketball is a four-quarter sport and if the Pelicans continue to only play three out of four, it’s going to be difficult to win games, let alone make the playoffs. 

On an individual note, Zion Williamson has signed a deal with the Jordan brand and plans to release his signature shoe, the Zion 1. Williamson has improved his totals from last season, averaging  26.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in his sophomore season. He ranks eighth in the league in points per game, and his field goal efficiency is over 61%. His co-star, Brandon Ingram, is also having a career year in multiple categories, posting a career high in points per game (24.2), free throw percentage (.885) and minutes per game (34.7). He is also tying a career high for blocks per game (0.7) and has decreased his turnovers per game from last season by 0.5. 

When you have two all-star-caliber players, it would make sense to give them the ball in crunch time. For the two overtime losses, however, the Pelicans had the last shot against the Knicks and gave the ball to Eric Bledsoe. For the game against the Wizards, the Pelicans did not score for the final two minutes and blew a 105–98 point lead.