Pelicans’ on-court and culture changes have placed destiny in their own hands
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - After a 3-16 start and no Zion Williamson available for play, most believed that the Pelicans were dead in the water, as far as this season goes.
Fast forward to Thursday night, the Pelicans, who have clinched a Play-In spot, were able to afford to give star Brandon Ingram a night off as the rest of the team cruised to a 127-94 victory over the Portland Trailblazers in the Smoothie King Center.
Guard C.J. McCollum scored 23 points in 29 minutes against his former team. As the game progressed, all starters were able to rest for at least a total of 30 minutes in the game.
“We talked about having active hands in the passing lanes,” McCollum said postgame. “We talked about getting it to the ball handler, especially coming off of screens. The low man did a good job on the backside and that allowed us to not only get turnovers but to contest better.”
Thursday’s big win means that the Pelicans now have a two-game lead over the Spurs. They have to win one out of the final two regular-season games against the Grizzlies and Warriors this weekend in order to host the Spurs in Wednesday’s Play-In game.
If the regular season ended today and the Pelicans were to be the 9th seed, they would host the 10th seeded Spurs. The winner of Wednesday’s game will face the loser between the Timberwolves (7th) and the Clippers (8th). The loser between the 7th and 8th seed will play the winner of the 9th and 10th seed for the final playoff spot in the West.
It’s a tough road to the postseason but if they make it in, it’ll be on their own terms. THe one thing they simply have to do is...win.
Just to be in this position after how many things went wrong at the beginning of the season is an accomplishment. No one believed in the Pelicans except for one man, first-year head coach Willie Green.
“When we evaluate our lives, and this is for most people, you have to be able to go through some adversity,” Green told The Athletic. “It’s hard. It’s difficult. Nobody wants to go through 1-12, whatever we were. But it’s made us tougher; it’s made us stronger. More importantly, it’s made us more connected.”
The season turnaround also doesn’t happen without Brandon Ingram showing a large leap in leadership growth. The midseason trade to land C.J. McCollum also not only put more talent on the roster, it also gave the franchise a savvy player that knows how to live big and win in a small market.
The reassignment of Jaxson Hayes from backup center to starting power forward has given this team a newfound juice...
How about rookie Herb Jones, drafted in the second-round out of Alabama? He’s quickly become one of the best defenders in the NBA.
And of course, it cannot go without mention, undrafted point guard Jose Alvarado has been a crucial figure on both sides of the ball in the second unit.
This franchise has gone from a roster of guys that may not have had New Orleans as their first choice to one that is motivated by their love of the game and trust in each other.
The Pelicans play at Memphis on Saturday night at 5 p.m. and return home for the season finale against the Warriors at 8:30 p.m. before the location for Wednesday’s Play In-game is announced.
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