The Scouting Report: New Orleans Pelicans
Projected starting line-up: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Quincy Pondexter, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik
Key injury: Jrue Holiday (leg, out since January)
The New Orleans Pelicans are charging hard and threatening to sneak into the playoffs. After last night’s victory over the Sacramento Kings, the Pelicans are just 0.5 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot.
With the injuries to Kevin Durant, as well as Serge Ibaka, the Thunder have been up and down. Their defense has struggled mightily without both players and the Pelicans are charging hard down the stretch.
Most importantly, the Pels still have the tiebreaker after winning the season series. The Pelicans looked liked they had shot themselves in the foot earlier this season too many times. A home loss to the Denver Nuggets weeks ago seemed to prove that this team was not mature enough to get the job done and pass Westbrook and company.
The Pelicans do not have the schedule on their side, however. While the tiebreaker is on their side they play tonight at Portland and then they play Tuesday at Golden State, who has nothing to play for except trying to get to 69 wins. The Pelicans also have road games at Memphis and at Houston down the stretch as the seeding for both of those teams will still likely be in doubt.
The Thunder’s schedule is far easier, including games against the Kings and Pacers (who are getting back Paul George) before closing the season out at Minnesota. The Pacers are still technically in the playoff hunt but the teams that the Thunder are facing are much easier than the Pelicans.
If they’re tied, the Thunder could miss the playoffs because of this play.
Who says the regular season doesn’t matter?
Still, the Pels have a great opportunity here and a win tonight would be huge. The Blazers also want this game so that they can keep pace with San Antonio as well as the Clippers for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
Davis has been a terror against the Blazers but the Blazers have mostly handled the Pelicans this season. Their last meeting in December, the Blazers absolutely dismantled the Pelicans in New Orleans.
Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday both had very poor shooting nights, sabotaging Davis’ great game, when the two teams played in Portland back in November.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum all got to rest in the 4th quarter of Friday’s win against the Lakers so they should be more rested than the Pelicans who had to hold off a late rally and a triple-double from DeMarcus Cousins.
The Blazers have a good track record against the Pelicans but without both Wesley Matthews and Dorell Wright, that changes things slightly. Aldridge vs. Davis is still going to be a great match-up. Portland must also get back in transition as Evans is still a pretty talented scorer and he loves to take the ball to the basket when he has an opportunity.