[via NOP]

Can The Pelicans Avoid The Play-Ins?

18:00 March 09, 2024
By: Kaitlin Lowe

The Current State of the New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans started the season off with a clear goal in mind—to make the playoffs.

"The fans and players alike are ready for this team to succeed; sales are the best they've ever been," said David Griffin, vice president of operations for the Pelicans at Media Day.

"Everyone understands that there is a great deal riding on this season, but the great thing is we get to prove ourselves through the game," said Griffin. Coach Green further explained plans to ramp up the team's capability, including working on quicker offense, confidence in making threes, and maintaining health.

Coach Green has made the goal clear from the jump, "We know what our expectations are, but now we need to take the step to become a winning, playoff team."

[Kaitlin Lowe]

Green's goals for the season have proven themselves for the most part. The team's record has significantly improved since years prior, as the Pelicans stand at 8th in the league overall and 5th in the west. Regarding offense and three-point shooting, the team has broken the franchise record for both this season—with 153 points and 41 total assists in one game and 25 three-pointers made in a single game. Concerning health, the improvements are significant, as this is the latest in the season the "big 3" of CJ McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram have gotten to share the court after only playing a total of 10 games together last season. The last goal the Pelicans previously outlined that they have to tackle is "becoming a playoff team." With the season's end looming, the prospect of doing so becomes very possible.

When the season began, last year's play-in loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was a hot topic. "It was tough watching the playoffs this year. I was in shock after that Thunder game; I never want to feel that way again," said Trey Murphy III, reflecting on the results of last year's play-ins.

As the season progresses, Pels fans are hopeful the team can deliver the results—some hoping even for a season with 50+ wins, something only accomplished once by the 2007-08 Hornets (the most successful season in franchise history by far—with the team going 56-26 during the regular season and ultimately missing the Western Conference Finals by one game).

Returning from the All-Star break, when asked about avoiding the Play-In, Coach Green said, "It's really just—pile up as many wins as you can. We want to take care of business." This is the time of the year where the regular season of basketball heats up, fans stay alert, and the "it's a long season" excuse becomes irrelevant. The Pelicans are experiencing more success at this point in the season than they have in the past decade, but when you look at the potential of this team—it's clear there is an opportunity for not just good, but great.

When looking at the rest of the season, the Pelicans have a fair shot at making the playoffs, as well as doing so without a play-in appearance. With the better part of the season under their belt, the Pelicans have made their weaknesses clear in what could cause them issues in the post-season—losing leads and performing in the clutch.

[via NOP]

When it comes to losing leads, we saw a prime example in a shy win over the Embiid and Tyrese Maxey-less 76ers—with the Pelicans gaining a lead as large as 35 points yet allowing the 76ers to shave down the margin to six points in the last few minutes. The game was reminiscent of the Pelicans' home-court win against the Washington Wizards, the worst team in the NBA where they lost a 20-point lead and almost let the game's outcome flip.

This is a trope the Pelicans fans have come to know all too well. After the Wizards game, Williamson commented, "We've gotta stop doing that. I'll be the first to say it. As a team, we've got to stop doing that," regarding losing leads when up early in the game. More importantly, the team lacks a sense of urgency when it comes to intense, playoff-intensity moments. The Pelicans stand at an 0-14 record when down in points to start the fourth quarter.

While the season is getting more intense, it isn't over yet. The Pelicans still have room for growth as they gear up for the postseason. While the team has locked down beating manageable teams, they've struggled knocking down some of the top teams.

When asking Coach Green what the Pelicans can do, he responded with "that's the area of growth we're looking at. We need to bring more competitiveness, and our room for error has to be less when we play those teams."

Yet, not all hope is lost as the Pelicans have a 10-7 record when playing the top seven teams in the West this season—making them series contenders in the playoffs.

Tune in to the rest of the Pels' journey on Bally Sports and check back with Where Y'at for all the best Pelicans updates and inside scoop of the rest of the season as we head into the playoffs!

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