Pelicans fight for play-in lives as end to NBA season approaches

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

Hailie Goldthorpe

We have officially reached the crunch time of the NBA season. With only ten games left in the regular season, just 1.5 games separate the sixth seed Golden State Warriors and 12 seed New Orleans Pelicans. At least, these are the standings on March 22 — they are changing every day. A play-in birth and potential playoff appearance are on the line, so these next ten games could not be more crucial to the Pelicans. 

Recently, the Pelicans have lost critical games back-to-back against the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. The game against the Lakers, on March 14, could not have been more of a must-win, as both teams entered the game competing for a play-in spot and tied 1-1 in their season series. With a potential tiebreaker on the line, the Pelicans came out flat-footed right from the tip, trailing by 35 at halftime and losing 123-108.  

If that loss did not hit home — the Pelicans’ chances at making the play-in continually dwindling — then the following loss against the Houston Rockets, the team with the worst record in the Western conference, certainly did. The Pelicans entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, before the Rockets won the fourth quarter 34-22 to give the Rockets their 18th win on the season. 

Since that defeat, the Pelicans have won their last two games, both against two of the worst teams in the lead, the Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs. While the Pelicans face another struggling team, the Charlotte Hornets, on March 23, the road beyond that gets more challenging. The rest of their schedule is against teams either already in the postseason — the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks — or those competing with them for a spot, such as the Portland Trailblazers and Minnesota Timberwolves. 

To add on to that, the Pelicans remain without their star power forward, Zion Williamson, who despite getting a sweet new back tattoo, is still weeks away from returning. At this point, Williamson’s “weeks away” arrival means the postseason is far from a guarantee. 

Luckily for the Pelicans, Williamson’s absence is nothing new. The fate of their franchise will once again rest on the shoulders of Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and the rest of their cast of young players. Ingram has averaged a little over 27 points in the Pelicans last four games, while McCollum has averaged 17. Both will need to play to their all-star, and in Ingram’s case, superstar potential in order to bring this team above water and into the postseason. 

Few teams have had seasons that have been as much of a rollercoaster ride as the Pelicans, who in December were the top seed in the Western conference. While the road ahead appears to be a bumpy one, the Pelicans will have to coast through the rest of the regular season to secure a chance at the playoffs.

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