The New Orleans Pelicans dismantled the Chicago Bulls 126-109 at home on Thursday night. The team saw significant contributions from players such as Devonte’ Graham, Jose Alvarado, and C.J. McCollum. Graham led all Pelican scorers with 30 points. The victory over the Bulls strengthened the team’s chances of qualifying for the NBA’s play-in tournament.
They are now tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for ninth place in the Western Conference playoff picture. To qualify for a play-in game, a team must finish the season by being seeded seventh thru tenth in the conference. Since the league came up with having a play-in tournament, the Pelicans have failed to qualify.
So far, it looks like the tides are shifting positively compared to the previous two seasons. New Orleans started the season with a 1-12 record and were labeled as castoffs. However, the Pelicans made season-changing moves during the trade deadline when they acquired star guard C.J. McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell from the Portland Trailblazers. The decision to trade for McCollum strengthens the Pelicans’ chances of qualifying for a play-in berth this season. After defeating Chicago, New Orleans enters a crucial stretch of their three-game homestand. First, let’s break down the two opponents the Pelicans will face in the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers.
San Antonio Spurs: Saturday, March 26, 2022
So far, the Spurs have won two out of three matchups with the Pelicans this season. New Orleans won the most recent game with San Antonio 121-94. As it stands right now, the Spurs are 29-44, which places them in the 11th spot in the West. Their play-in hopes are still alive, but a Pelicans victory would put the Spurs in a difficult position to recover. However, the x-factor for San Antonio is head coach Greg Popovich. He has a knack for having his team prepared for big games, regardless of the roster’s talent.
Los Angeles Lakers: Sunday, March 27, 2022
Who would have thought that the Los Angeles Lakers would be in the play-in game territory at the beginning of the season? Yet, here they are. New Orleans opened everyone’s eyes when they handed the Lakers one of their most embarrassing defeats on February 27. However, they have managed to stay afloat for a play-in berth. Star player LeBron James should be well-rested after sitting out the game against the Wizards.
The latest on the status of James is that he is day-to-day, according to head coach Frank Vogel. The expectation is that James will play in Sunday’s game against the Pelicans. If you have not noticed by now, James is the number one reason why the Lakers are in the playoff conversation. New Orleans needs to be prepared for another herculean effort from the former league MVP. If they can respond consistently to his scoring output, the Pelicans should have no issue defeating Los Angeles.
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