The New Orleans Pelicans passed the Portland Trail Blazers and moved into the 10th spot in the Western Conference.
This puts them in the play-in tournament (for now) and their recent trade for CJ McCollum has New Orleans buzzing about the possibilities for this team.
Even if Zion Williamson doesn’t return, McCollum gives the Pelicans a quality starting five that can compete with most teams, so this should be an exciting couple of months in New Orleans.
The Pels have now set their sights on the Lakers, who are just above them in the standings. The two teams will always be connected because of the Anthony Davis trade and New Orleans would love nothing more than to surpass the Lakers, who are probably the NBA’s most disappointing team.
So do the Pelicans have a chance to chase-down the Lakers for the 9th spot? Could they go even higher?
Pelicans’ schedule vs. the Lakers’ schedule
The Pels are currently three games behind the Lakers for the 9th seed and four games behind the Clippers for the 8th.
New Orleans has won four in a row and the Lakers have lost two in a row. While the Pels seem to be gelling as a team, the Lakers are seemingly falling apart, with Russell Westbrook drama every day and LeBron calling out his team after an ugly loss to the Bucks.
It would appear things are trending in favor of the Pelicans here, though you can never count out a team with LeBron James on it, and the Lakers could very well make a move at today’s deadline (they haven’t as of the writing of this).
When it comes to strength of schedule, the Pelicans have the 7th-toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, with tough games against the Suns (2), Warriors, Grizzlies (3), Heat, Jazz and Bulls still left to play.
However, the Lakers have the toughest remaining strength of schedule in the NBA, with games remaining against the Suns (2), Warriors (3), Jazz (2) Cavs, 76ers and Mavericks (2).
It could very well come down to the three games the two teams will play against each other, so the Pelicans can control their own fate by taking care of business against the bad teams and beating the Lakers in their head-to-head matchups.
None of those things will be easy, and the Lakers already have a 3-game cushion, but the Pelicans have the momentum and it’s going to be fun to watch them try to climb the standings.