Pelicans Burn Up Suns, Magic Number For Playoffs is 3


With three games remaining, the Pelicans hold the keys to the playoffs in their hands.

New Orleans entered Friday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns with the intention to keep their advantage over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff seed.

Now the magic number is three.

Apr 10, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Norris Cole (30) dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the first quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Anthony Davis missing half the game, the Pelicans rolled the Suns Friday night 90-75. New Orleans played as a tight unit to get the victory, assisting on over 75% of their made field goals.

Omer Asik set a personal single-game record with 18 rebounds, Eric Gordon set a new career-high for 3-pointers made in a season, and five players reached double-figure scoring in the comprehensive whooping of the Suns.

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The Bench Krewe stepped up big in the minutes vacated by Davis, after he received an elbow to the jugular. Norris Cole, Dante Cunningham, and Alexis Ajinca combined to shot 14-18 for the game.

Their contributions weren’t just limited to scoring however. Cunningham brought just as much energy on defense, pulling down 8 rebs and blocking 3 shots.

Cole racked up 6 assists and got the ball moving for an offense that only turned the ball over 11 times on the way to 30 assists.

Monty Williams was pleased, “Dante was great tonight, him and Jrue were on the floor going after balls, causing havoc. Norris was efficient. Just having Jrue back on the floor helps that group.”

Apr 10, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts after taking a blow to the head from Phoenix Suns forward Earl Barron (30) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Davis would leave the game following the play. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Jrue Holiday made his long-awaited return from injury, playing a limited 15 minutes.

After the game he seemed to be feeling fine, “I felt good out there, I trusted my leg, which means a lot to how I play”.

With Holiday and Ryan Anderson returning this last week, the Pelicans’ roster is healthy just in time for the playoffs. The question now is, can they hold on?

The other question is, will their returns impact the Pelicans playoff chase and (hopefully) berth?

Tonight it did not look that way, with Holiday and Anderson combing to go 2-14. Holiday’s box score does not reflect his real impact though.

On defense he hounded the perimeter, and on offense the Suns instinctively gravitated towards the sharpshooter whether or not he was handling the ball.

The Oklahoma City Thunder kept pace, beating the Sacramento Kings 116-103.

That keeps the Thunder and the Pelicans knotted in the Win-Loss column. OKC has the easier remaining schedule of the two teams, playing the Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Minnesota Timberwolves to wrap up the season.

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Sunday night New Orleans plays the Houston Rockets on the first night of their final back-to-back of the year, before facing the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday evening, and closing out the regular season at home against the San Antonio Spurs.

Unfortunately for the Pelicans, the 8th seed isn’t the only playoff spot in question.

Apr 10, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams gestures from the sidelines against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans won 90-75. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2-6 spots are all separated by a half-game. That means the Rockets and Spurs both have quite a bit at stake these last few games. A single loss for either team could mean the difference between two rounds of home-court advantage or none.

Portland on the other hand is first in their division by a comfortable margin so, despite having a worse record than both San Antonio and Houston, they are guaranteed their current seed (#4).

To put that in perspective for New Orleans fans, that means the Pelicans have to play two games against Western playoff (and title) contenders. The Thunder play none.

There are a lot of moving parts to finish out this playoff race, but one thing is certain: Win and we’re in!

Next: Pelicans and Thunder Ready to Race for the 8th Seed