Who should the Pelicans be rooting for in today’s play-in games?

Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The NBA Play-In Tournament officially begins today (to learn more about the inner workings of the tournament, check out this post here). And while the New Orleans Pelicans don’t play until tomorrow, one of these games will determine who their next opponent is – should they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The first game going on tonight, between the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat, holds no immediate weight over the Pelicans’ future. However, the second game, featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, could end up being very consequential for them.

If the Pelicans win, they will play the loser of that Lakers/Timberwolves clash. So who should they be hoping will lose so that they can face them?

If you ask anyone in the New Orleans organization, they will probably brush it off and pretend that it’s all the same to them. That’s the art of gamesmanship, after all. You’re supposed to put your head down and just worry about what is in front of you. Take it one game at a time.

But it is part of our nature to look ahead and scheme for possibilities that could lead to the easiest pathway for reaching our destination. And in this instance, our destination – the eighth seed in the Western Conference – is most easily reached if the Lakers win this game.

After overhauling a large portion of their roster at the trade deadline, the Lakers have looked like a completely different team. Before the All-Star break, the Lakers were 24th in the league in Net Rating (-0.9, per NBA.com). But since the league returned from its midseason hiatus, they have been 6th in that category with a +4.9. That’s without LeBron James being in uniform for 13 of those 23 games.

So yeah, it’s safe to say that the Pelicans do not want to see this Lakers team in a single-game elimination forum (especially if they are going to be without Zion Williamson).

Meanwhile, despite beating the Pelicans on Sunday, the Timberwolves have been in a downward spiral since that game. If you hadn’t already heard, teammates Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson got into a heated argument in the huddle during a timeout that resulted in Gobert throwing a punch at Anderson.

The team has since suspended Gobert one game for this incident, meaning that he will theoretically be eligible to play in their second play-in game should they lose to the Lakers tonight. But even then, there’s no telling how much of a lasting effect this scuffle will have on the overall team dynamic.

On top of that, Jaden McDaniels looks to be lost for the season with a fractured hand he suffered from angrily punching the wall during that same game. Naz Reid is also out indefinitely with a left wrist injury.

All this points to the Pelicans having a better chance of defeating the discombobulated and undermanned Timberwolves than slaying the sleeping giant in Los Angeles. So, go Lakers!

Next. 10 Players the Pelicans gave up on way too soon. dark