Mirotic back, Jackson making mark for Pelicans
The timing could not be better for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Facing perhaps the most difficult road trip of the season to date, the Pelicans have a three-game win streak for the first time since Nov. 16 by virtue of their 140-124 victory over lowly Cleveland Wednesday night.
Before we get overly excited, let us temper that enthusiasm based upon whom the three wins came against. Two were against the Cavaliers while the other was against the Grizzlies. The Cavaliers are an NBA-worst 8-34 while Memphis just snapped a long losing streak.
Still, there is reason for optimism.
Niko Mirotic returned from a 12-game absence and was very efficient Wednesday night, scoring 17 points in just 22 minutes with four assists.
Elfrid Payton is back and playing solidly. Since Payton’s return, the Pelicans are the highest scoring team in the NBA.
Anthony Davis continues to shine, now posting 12 consecutive games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. If the Pelicans were a more viable playoff contender or become a more viable playoff contender, Davis will join the conversation for MVP honors with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard, among others.
Jrue Holiday is stuffing the stat sheet on a nightly basis.
Jahlil Okafor has found his game and found a role off the bench.
Julius Randle has scored in double figures in 18 straight games and in 26 of his last 27 games, averaging 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest.
Then, there is the emergence of Frank Jackson.
Against Memphis Monday night, Jackson had a breakout game with 17 points in 19 minutes, a career high. He followed that up with a new career high of 19 points in 19 minutes against the Cavaliers last night.
E’Twaun Moore figures to return soon from injury. When he does, the Pelicans, barring any other injuries, will be at full strength for the first time since the fourth game of the season on Oct. 26. That seems like such a long time ago.
That is the good news.
The bad news is that the Pelicans now embark on a very difficult five-game road trip, opening in Minnesota Saturday night.
At 20-22, New Orleans is a half game behind the Timberwolves to it is a very important contest. Then come games with the Clippers, Golden State, Portland and Memphis.
If the Pelicans want to make the playoffs, as I have stated previously, I believe they have to get to 45 wins. Now is the time to begin the charge.
If New Orleans emerges from this trip with three wins, it would signal that this team has turned the corner and should move on to a winning season, though it will be tough to crack the top eight teams in the deep Western Conference.
If New Orleans wins two games on the trip, the Pelicans will stay afloat.
Anything less will be a sign that this team is likely going nowhere.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…