Pelicans embark on unique four-game road trip
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Looking for a common thread in the New Orleans Pelicans’ four-game road trip that opens the 2014 calendar year? Good luck. In one of the most unusual trips a professional basketball team can make, over a seven-day span, the Pelicans will face four teams from four different divisions of the NBA. The Pelicans begin the week-long excursion in the frigid climate of Minneapolis (Jan. 1 gameday expected high temperature: 2 degrees), but wrap up the excursion near the beaches of Miami (Jan. 7 gameday projected high temperature: 76).
The opposition gets progressively more difficult as well, starting with matchups against playoff hopefuls Minnesota (Northwest Division) and Boston (Atlantic), followed by visits to legitimate championship contenders Indiana (Central) and Miami (Southeast). There’s also a back-to-back set wedged into the middle of the trip, featuring a game against the Celtics on Friday and a trip to the Hoosier State to take on the Pacers on Saturday.
A closer look at what’s ahead for the Pelicans (14-15), who are trying to get back to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 11-11 on Dec. 17:
Wednesday, Jan. 1, at Minnesota (7 p.m. Central tip-off)
The Pelicans and Timberwolves (15-16) are currently tied for ninth place in the Western Conference, making their first head-to-head matchup of 2013-14 a key one relative to this juncture of the season. Minnesota may have the worst luck in the NBA so far, with an 0-8 record in games decided by four points or less (New Orleans is 4-3 in that stat). Oddly, the Pelicans and Wolves will play their entire three-game season series between now and Feb. 7.
Friday, Jan. 3, at Boston (6:30 p.m.)
Among the four Pelicans opponents on this trip, the Celtics (13-18) have the worst record, but as members of the struggling Atlantic Division, they are only 1.5 games out of first place. Last season’s trip to Beantown was notable partly for the first-ever Rivers vs. Rivers NBA matchup (won by Austin over Doc), but the Celtics’ ultra-successful former head coach left in the summer to take over the Clippers.
Saturday, Jan. 4, at Indiana (6 p.m.)
In the only 2013-14 “rematch” on the four-game trip, the Pelicans look to even their season series with the Pacers (24-5), who came from behind on Oct. 30 to win 95-90 at New Orleans. Indiana has been nearly unbeatable at home, losing just once in its first 15 contests. Coincidentally, both cities’ NFL teams will also be in action on Jan. 4, with the Indianapolis Colts hosting Kansas City at nearby Lucas Oil Stadium, and the New Orleans Saints visiting Philadelphia.
Tuesday, Jan. 7, at Miami (6:30 p.m.)
New Orleans has not won in South Florida since April 2009, including going 0-3 during the Heat’s recent “Big Three” era. LeBron James poured in 36 points in 32 minutes vs. New Orleans in the clubs’ last meeting on March 29. Although the Pelicans will welcome a trip back to the Crescent City immediately following this mid-week game, they’ll get little rest: a home game on Jan. 8 vs. Washington is next.