Back-to-back games are an important part of any NBA team’s schedule. For many teams the second game of a back-to-back can often be chalked up as a schedule loss thanks to the impact of the traveling in a short period of time and typically playing on the road. For a New Orleans Pelicans team fighting for a playoff berth in a tough Western Conference in 2014-2015, winning a few second game of a back-to-back could mean the difference between being at home in late April or playing in the playoffs.
Before we get into breaking down each of the Pelicans 20 back-to-backs this coming season there is a very relevant study to consider. According to databaseBasketball.com teams playing on the second half of a home/road back-to-back won just 37.3 percent of the second games, down from a number just under 40 percent of just normal road games. In a road/road back-to-back though that win percentage number drops all the way down to just 32.9 percent from that 40 percent number, meaning that stealing a game or two at the end of a back-to-back over the course of a season could in fact be the difference in a playoff spot for a team like the Pelicans fighting at the back of a conference. Things look a bit better in a road/home or home/home back-to-back as teams won the second game 60.5 and 52.2 percent of the time in those situations respectively. It isn’t easy to win NBA games on any night but the study shows the impact of a back-to-back fairly clearly. The extra travel and tired legs matter, and any time a team can capture a win in these tough situations it is important.
So now time to get into the games:
November 3/4, at Memphis, home vs. Charlotte
The Pelicans back-to-backs start early as the fifth and sixth games the team will play marks the first set. The Memphis game will be a tough one as they seem likely to be one of the six best teams in the Western Conference if they stay healthy but the Charlotte game on the back-end is nice for New Orleans. The Hornets were a nice story last season and should be pretty good again this year but if New Orleans is healthy they seem to match up pretty well. Add in the shorter travel than most back-to-backs and the second game being at home and it seems possible the Pelicans can go 2-2 in their first back-to-back test.
November 17/18, at Portland, at Sacramento
Another set of winnable games for the Pelicans in their second set of back-to-backs in 2014-2015. Portland is a talented team but they also relied on a lot of luck in regards to health last season. A healthy Pelicans squad should again match up nicely with them though the Blazers will definitely be the favorites in a tough place to play like the Rose Garden. Luckily for New Orleans the second game seems primed to be a chance to steal a win from a schedule loss as the Kings are a mess. Sacramento played better after acquiring Rudy Gay last season but they still were 22 of 64 post Gay trade and lost their second best player this offseason when Isaiah Thomas left for the Phoenix Suns. This should be at least a 1-1 set.
November 21/22, at Denver, at Utah
The first game is going to be very big for the Pelicans in this set as the Nuggets should compete with New Orleans for one of the eight playoff spots out West. Winning in Denver is always hard, the Nuggets lost just three times there in 2011-2012, so New Orleans look like underdogs at this point. Like Sacramento though at Utah on the second night is very winnable thanks to a team that is still young and looking to find themselves. Another trip where anything less than 1-1 should be a disappointment.
November 28/29, at Atlanta, at Washington
This looks like the toughest back-to-back on the schedule up to this point. Atlanta was very good with Al Horford on the floor last season and should be even better with another season under Mike Budenholzer and a healthy Horford. Then the team heads to Washington who thanks to the emergence of John Wall and Bradly Beal last season became a solid playoff team. Winning one of these two games will be big for New Orleans but winning both seems highly unlikely at this point.
December 6/7, at Los Angeles Clippers, at Los Angeles Lakers
Everything on this trip broke perfectly for the Pelicans. The Clippers are easily the tougher game so getting them on the first night is a big deal. Then the team doesn’t have to travel before coming back and playing a terrible Lakers team. It seems like a perfect chance to steal away another second game win in a back-to-back.
December 9/10, home vs. New York, at Dallas
The Knicks shouldn’t be very good in the coming season but beating them on a nightly basis will always be tough thanks to the talent and scoring ability of Carmelo Anthony. Dallas will be tough for plenty of reasons. The Mavericks should be much improved this year with the additions of Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons and beating them in Dallas is always tough. Another 1-1 set seems likely but if Melo gets hot it is easy to see New Orleans dropping both games.
December 20/21, home vs. Portland, at Oklahoma City
New Orleans will have to win the first game of this set to salvage a split. Portland won’t be easy but they will be on the second game of a back-to-back. At Oklahoma City is hard enough on a normal night but on the second of a back-to-back it will be a huge upset to topple the Thunder.
December 26/27, home vs. San Antonio, at Chicago
Things break well in this instance for the Pelicans who get the Spurs at home on the second night of a back-to-back for the Spurs giving them a real chance to win the game. With Gregg Popovich likely to rest his stars at some point during the middle of the season so there is a chance the Pelicans starters play against backups. Chicago could go either way depending on how Derrick Rose holds up but no matter what it won’t be easy to play a tough Bulls team on the second night of a back-to-back.
December 30/31, home vs. Phoenix, at San Antonio
Another tough one for New Orleans that is made easier by opponents schedules. For the second game the Spurs will also be coming off a game the night before so it is at least easier than most back-to-backs. In San Antonio is never easy but it is possible. The first game could be big in a playoff race against a Suns team also playing for a berth.
January 18/19, at Toronto, at New York
After two weeks without back-to-backs the Pelicans return to the grind with games against two Eastern Conference foes. The Raptors will be good so it is a tough first game but the second game against a lottery bound New York team makes a 1-1 trip seem possible.
January 25/26, home vs. Dallas, home vs. Philadelphia
This could very well be a 2-0 set for the Pelicans especially with both games at home. As mentioned above Dallas is tough but winnable, especially if Tyson Chandler misses time like he always seems too, and Philadelphia will stink again this season. Another important winnable second game for New Orleans as the season starts to turn into the second half.
February 6/7, at Oklahoma City, home vs. Chicago
That home and home is followed up with a really tough road/home split against two teams projected to be some of the best in the NBA. Stealing one will be big for the team as the playoff race starts to set up.
February 20/21, at Orlando, at Miami
Orlando is a nice start to a back-to-back and a game that a playoff hopeful should win but Miami won’t be easy. Even without LeBron James the Heat should be good so another 1-1 split seems very possible.
March 1/2, at Denver, at Dallas
Like earlier in the season the first game in Denver will be the important one. The Nuggets project better to be around the Pelicans in the playoff race so beating them in March will be important in tiebreaker scenarios and in putting space between the two teams in the standings. The second game could be easier depending on Chandler’s health but seems at this point to likely be a game in which the Pelicans are underdogs.
March 6/7, home vs. Boston, home vs. Memphis
This is another perfectly set up home/home back-to-back for the Pelicans. The Celtics should be bad again this season so a win in the first game seems likely leading into a game against the Grizzlies when the Pelicans won’t have to travel. Memphis looks like the better team right now so New Orleans may still be underdogs but things could be much worse.
March 9/10, at Milwaukee, at Brooklyn
Just days after a back-to-back New Orleans is at it again against the Bucks and Nets. Milwaukee should be bad again and the Nets will be worse this year after losing two starters so projecting a two-for-two split isn’t far-fetched. This could be very important for New Orleans late in the year.
March 19/20, at Phoenix, at Golden State
This is just a brutal stretch for New Orleans but one that could be very important. Both teams could very well be in the 6/7/8 seed battle with New Orleans so taking one of the two games could mean a playoff spot. But being so far away from home for a double road back-to-back is asking a lot of a fairly young team that could be in contention for a playoff spot for their first time ever as a unit.
April 3/4, at Sacramento, at Portland
The key to this set could be the first game in Sacramento. The Kings could be tanking at this point which could make things easier for the Pelicans. If they can win the game easily and rest players late the second game against Portland seems winnable. It won’t be easy but it is the type of win that can make or break a playoff team.
April 7/8, home vs. Golden State, at Memphis
Another make or break game with a Warriors team that could be fighting with New Orleans for a playoff berth starts another brutal back-to-back. Playing the crazy physical Grizzlies on a normal night sucks but doing it late in the season on a second game of a back-to-back on the road is the type of thing that makes a team pack it in early if things go wrong in the first quarter.
April 12/13, at Houston, at Minnesota
At this point in the year the Rockets could be resting players heading into the playoffs or playing for their playoff lives. The first could be a great help to New Orleans while the second makes things much tougher. The second game though ends the Pelicans back-to-back schedule on a high note as the team will be bad next year and potentially tanking at that point. It should be yet another win on the second night of a back-to-back and a potential playoff sealing one at that.
Trying to project with perfect accuracy at this point in the offseason how things will play out this year is hard. But a quick glance over each set of back-t0-backs should provide Pelicans fans a lot of hope entering the year. Winning a game or two on the second end could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs for a team and the Pelicans have a chance to win quite a few. It is a nice bit of hope in August, something every fan should love.
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