Mar 24, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams huddles with his team during the second half of a game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Nets 109-104 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

2014-2015 New Orleans Pelicans Schedule Breakdown: The Closing Stretch

Last April in the Big Easy fans of the New Orleans Pelicans, and the players themselves, had already realized that the post season was a lost dream. Going into the 2014-2015 season however, the team’s dream of reaching the post season for the first time since the 2010-2011 season is alive again and seemingly very possible. With Omer Asik and other new faces joining Anthony Davis and the existing core, the Pelicans could be in the hunt for a playoff spot come April. So what teams do the Pelicans face come crunch time? Will the final stretch of the journey we all call an NBA season be hard for the Pelicans? Let’s make some observations on the final seven games:

April 4 at Portland:

The first game of the Pelican’s final stand is a  tough face off with the Trailblazers in Portland. After last season, Damien Lillard (who made this shot) has shown himself to be one of the leagues’ best at the point guard spot for a multitude of reasons. He does everything well offensively including getting to the rim, shooting from the perimeter, and making his free throws. Fortunately for the Pelicans, Jrue Holiday is expected to come back into the starting lineup healthy and stronger than he was before his leg injury. With a bit more defensive presence at the top of the key, and a new front court that should feature plenty extra defense, the Pelicans have a shot at winning this one. Expect a dog fight if the Pelicans can make the improvements that they are going to be capable of with their new lineup.

April 7 versus Golden State:

Game number two of seven comes at home versus the Warriors. At this point in the season, we will have a feel for how Steve Kerr is doing as a coach of this ultra talented roster, but right now, it’s still up in the air. Assuming that the Warriors are still as good, if not better than they were last season, this will be another tough game.  (See the trend here?)Last season the Warriors beat the Pelicans by an average of seven points per game so assuming the roster stay healthy, these games should be even more competitive than last season which should provide for some very fun match ups between two  up and coming stars in the league in Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis.

April 8 at Memphis:

Last season Memphis lost three out of four games they played with the Pelicans making this seem like it could be a nice match up for New Orleans, especially towards the end of the season. Marc Gasol who missed a good chunk of time last season due to an injury, was only absent for one of these match ups which should give the Pelicans even more hope that they could come away with a victory in this match up. Also important in this game, is the match up between Anthony Davis and Zach Randolph. Look for this to be another bruiser with two teams that both should be good on the defensive end of the floor this season.

April 10 versus Phoenix: 

The not so fun stat for this match up? The Pelicans went 0-4 against the Suns last season and were outscored by an average margin of nine points in those losses. I could stop talking about this match up because it scares me a little bit, but why do that? Let’s be optimistic here! The Pelicans should have a decent shot at winning this game if Omer Asik and Anthony Davis have figured out how to be a good front court duo at this point. If you have a stay at home defender in Asik to protect the rim, and Anthony Davis doing Anthony Davis type things on both ends of the floor and what should be a very good offensive lineup, there’s no reason to give up hope that the Pelicans shouldn’t be able to compete in a game like this.

April 12 at Houston:

Is animosity calling? Omer Asik will be returning to Houston for the second time in this April 12th showdown with the Rockets after a season of conflicting reports and trade rumors finally ended when he was sent to New Orleans this summer. While the Rockets were a top four team in the Western Conference last season, they whiffed pretty hard this off-season by losing Chandler Parsons and missing out on Chris Bosh in free agency after LeBron James left the Miami Heat to go home to Cleveland. We have no idea yet how the Rockets will look come next season, but we do know that the Rockets lost only one of the four match ups with the Pelicans last season. Maybe Asik can bring some of the Houston secrets over to the Pelicans, and change their fortunes against the Rockets.

April 13 at Minnesota:

At Minnesota you say? No Kevin Love you say? No problem is what I say for the Pelicans. The one game that I am incredibly confident that a healthy Pelicans team can win during this stretch of games comes on April 13th. The kicker here is that it’s not a Friday, which removes any doubts that you may have had about the easiest game of this stretch falling on the date of the ever unlucky number 13.

April 15 versus San Antonio:

For the last game of the season the Pelicans get to face off against the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. I have my doubts about this game, but I have a lot of confidence in the Pelicans this year (for what that is worth). Something to think about in this game however, if the Spurs have locked up the one or two seed in the playoffs already, the Pelicans could be looking at a win or your season is over scenario while playing against the backups of the Spurs. I like the thought of that a lot more than I do facing Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli to figure out if my team is going to make the playoffs.

So what can we take away from my look into all of these games? My prediction is that during this stretch of games, the Pelicans are going to go 5-2 with the two loses coming against the Suns and Rockets. Anthony Davis is turning into quite the player and the development he shows this season could catapult him into a debate on where he sits among the top ten players in the league. Not to mention, he supposedly might have grown another two inches, gained his fair share of weight, and his wing span may or may not have grown. Combine Davis’ improvements with a little bit of luck in the health department, and the Pelicans could be staring down a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. Only time will tell though.

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