The New Orleans Pelicans are making a strong push down the stretch of the regular season in the hopes of clinching not just a play-in berth but possibly even an automatic berth in the playoffs. With a record of 38-37, they are now ranked ninth in the Western Conference. They have won five games in a row, including a significant victory over the Clippers, another team in league with postseason aspirations. That game was highlighted by the performances of Trey Murphy III and Brandon Ingram, who each scored 32 points. Ingram continued his scoring dominance in the next round, playing against the Blazers, who were playing with a depleted roster, by scoring 29 points on an effective 12-for-19 shooting clip. Also having a strong game was Jonas Valunciunas, who scored 10 points and pulled out 21 rebounds.
When you look at their remaining schedule, you can see that they will face playoff-bound opponents in each of their last seven games. Following their game against the Warriors, they will compete against the Nuggets, Clippers, Kings, Grizzlies, and Knicks. Their final opponent will be the Timberwolves. It is not an understatement to argue that this upcoming run of games will be the most critical stretch of the season for them.
Ingram is leading the way for New Orleans, as he has scored an average of 29.5 points per game throughout his team’s last five contests. The versatile scorer has only participated in 37 games thus far due to injuries, but he is more than making up for all of those absences with his outstanding play. CJ McCollum’s steady production on the offensive end has been a major factor in the team’s improved performance. Zion Williamson, a top player on the team, is still sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Especially considering that they are the reigning champions, the Warriors have experienced a below-average season. They have a record of 39-37, which places them in seventh place in the Western Conference. They are now surrounded by teams on their own winning streaks, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Warriors’ most recent defeat at the hands of the Timberwolves was a bitter pill to swallow because of a costly error that led to Karl-Anthony Towns’ game-winning three-point shot with 11 seconds remaining in regulation. They committed another turnover on their following possession of the ball. It was an ending that was completely out of character for a team that had just won a title, but it was not at all unexpected for a group that has been through many perplexing situations this year.
Despite this, the Warriors still have a shot at avoiding the play-in tournament if they can turn things around in the last six games of the season. After their match against the Pelicans, games are scheduled against the Spurs, the Nuggets, the Thunder, and the Kings. They will finish the regular season away from home against the Trail Blazers.
Before their disheartening defeat to the Timberwolves, the Warriors were on the uptick with three consecutive wins, including outstanding showings against the 76ers and Mavericks. But their winning streak ended with their game against the Timberwolves.
The Warriors and the Pelicans have played each other three times so far this season, with the Pelicans coming out on top twice. Before the Warriors prevailed 108-99 at their arena earlier this month, the Pelicans had a perfect record in their first two meetings with the Warriors, which took place in November.
The fact that Steph Curry has yet to compete against the Pelicans this year adds a new dimension to the forthcoming showdown between the two teams. The two-time MVP has been absent due to injuries for the team’s first three games, but he is expected to be healthy enough to play tomorrow. Expect a high-octane duel between the Warriors and the Pelicans, given that Curry will be playing for both teams and that there will be playoff implications at stake.