In 2013-2014 long road trips weren’t kind to the New Orleans Pelicans. The team had a five game trip in mid-December where they went 1-4, a four game trip to start January that included just one win and a five game trip in late February and early March that again only included a single win. There were plenty of reasons that things went badly during the stretches, most notably injuries, but if the Pelicans want to make the playoffs in the coming season winning records on those long road trips will be necessary.
Luckily for the Pelicans this season is a bit easier in regards to travel, as the team won’t have to be on the road for Mardi Gras with the NBA’s new extended All Star break. That extended rest led to the Pelicans having just a single five game trip in January and a single four game trip in November to make up the extended road portions of the season. So what does an early projection say about those trips? Let’s take a look:
The Four Game Stretch:
November 17 at Portland Trailblazers, November 18th at Sacramento Kings, November 21 at Denver Nuggets, November 22 at Utah Jazz.
This trip is probably tougher than it looks at first glance. Both Sacramento and Utah are winnable games but both are also the second nights of road/road back-to-backs which are always tough on teams, especially young ones. Portland and Denver are two teams that could be right in the running with the Pelicans at the end of the season for a Western Conference playoff berth so winning one of those games could be big. The best part of this trip for New Orleans is it comes after a two game home stand on November 12 and 14 against the Lakers and Timberwolves so they should come into it well rested and hot. If they can steal the first game against Portland, New Orleans can very well take three of four on the trip with just a loss in the incredibly difficult to play in altitude of Denver costing them a game.
The Five Game Stretch:
January 12 at Boston Celtics, January 14 at Detroit Pistons, January 16 at Philadelphia 76ers, January 18 at Toronto Raptors, January 19th at New York Knicks
The Pelicans almost couldn’t have planned a better long road trip than this. The first three games are against projected lottery teams including two teams, the Celtics and 76ers, who should be some of the worst teams in the league. The Raptors game will be tough as the team is expected to be one of the best four or five teams in the Eastern Conference this season and the Knicks game will be tough purely because of it being the second night of a back-to-back against one of the best scorers in the NBA. Like the trip above a perfect stretch is possible but it seems more likely that the team loses at least one game, this time to the Raptors.
A year after three tough long road trips the Pelicans had to be thrilled when they saw their schedule for the upcoming season. With a long trip cut out due to the long All Star break and two very manageable long trips coming so far apart things are set up perfectly for the Pelicans to fix the issues they had last season away from home and contend for a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference.