Warriors next up in challenging stretch for Pelicans
Tonight the New Orleans Pelicans reach the midpoint of their current five game road trip when they face the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.
Last night, the Warriors destroyed the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets on the road, 142-111. Golden State scored an NBA-record 51 points in the first quarter alone, including 10 three-pointers. Stephen Curry (31), Klay Thompson (31), and Kevin Durant (27) combined for 89 points.
It was their fifth consecutive win and seventh in their last eight games.
Since Steph Curry returned on Dec. 1 from injury, the Warriors have gone 15-6 while scoring nearly 120 points per game.
Needless to say, it’s a step up in weight class from Monday’s bout with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Pelicans have lost 20 out of their last 22 regular season games against the Warriors. Golden State won 131-121 when they met back on Oct. 31.
While it appears the champs are getting their swagger back, New Orleans is still struggling to find consistency. The Pelicans are 6-17 on the road, and only two of those wins have come against Western Conference opponents.
Even though they’re just 7-8 in their last 15 games, the Pels have actually climbed from 14th to tied for 11th in the playoff chase.
That proximity to the top eight has put the franchise in a precarious position with only three weeks remaining until the NBA trade deadline.
Should the Pelicans let their roster, now closer to fully healthy than at any point of the season, see if it can gel quickly enough to make a serious run?
Or should they try to make a move to shake up the current group, and/or plan for a potentially AD-less future?
On ESPN’s “The Jump,” Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he had spoken with Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry. Per Wojnarowski, Gentry would like to see what this team can do, now that Elfrid Payton and Nikola Mirotic are back on the floor.
The Pelicans are 5-2 since Payton rejoined the lineup on New Year’s Eve, and 2-1 in their last three with Niko. Of course, four of those five wins came against sub-.500 teams.
However, I’m inclined to agree with Gentry on this one.
If this is the team that the Pelicans thought they were getting at the outset of the season, then making the playoffs should be a more than reasonable goal.
The starting lineup of Payton, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Mirotic and Anthony Davis is 5-0 this season. The problem is, they have only played five games together. Payton, Holiday, Moore, Julius Randle, and Davis have started just four games together (2-2).
Neither is a big enough sample size to justify a major overhaul.
If the Pelicans aren’t a true contender, and we should all have a pretty good idea about that by the end of the month, then the Pelicans have to think about moving people out rather than bringing people in.
If Davis does remain in the fold, the talent the Pelicans need isn’t available before the summer, at least not at a price they can afford.
This franchise has been burdened by short-term thinking. Even with the pressure and anxiety around the team nearing a boiling point, patience has to be exercised.
The future is coming, and the big picture doesn’t just include making the playoffs this season. It must include a vision for years down the road.
By the end of this month, for better or worse, the path ahead for Gentry, Davis and the franchise will be further revealed.
Until then, we keep riding the emotional pendulum that swings between each win and each loss.
David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…