Pelicans to face reeling opponents on road trip
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
For the majority of the past half-decade, no NBA team would’ve been overly optimistic about a road trip that featured perennial Eastern Conference playoff contenders Philadelphia, New York and Chicago. The 76ers, Knicks and Bulls have been among the East’s most successful franchises, with each advancing to the second round of the postseason in either 2012 or 2013.
The early portion of 2013-14 – particularly the past week to 10 days – has been brutal for each club, however, for varying reasons. When the New Orleans Pelicans head to the Northeast to begin a three-game road trip Friday in Philadelphia, they’ll be facing three teams in the midst of losing streaks, major injury absences, big-picture question marks, or a combination of all three.
New Orleans (6-8) has had difficulty away from Louisiana so far regardless of the level of competition, with only a victory at Memphis to show for its six road games, but will try to capitalize on what appears to be optimum timing to visit the Eastern Conference. The Pelicans have gone 3-2 vs. the East, but are just 3-6 in their own conference (coincidentally, those are also New Orleans’ records thus far with and without Ryan Anderson in uniform, respectively).
A closer look at the Pelicans’ three-games-in-four-days road trip, which makes stops in three of the East’s largest cities:
Friday, Nov. 29, at Philadelphia, 7 p.m. Central (FSNOLA, Pelicans Radio Network)
Jrue Holiday’s previous NBA team has actually been a pleasant surprise even at just 6-10, after entering the season with extremely low outside expectations. But a 5-4 start for Philadelphia has dissolved with six losses in its last seven games. The Sixers’ recent tailspin began with back-to-back losses in Atlanta and New Orleans, the latter a 37-point rout at the hands of the Pelicans. Michael Carter-Williams missed that Nov. 16 matchup in the Crescent City due to injury, but the Syracuse product has returned and continues to excel as the early front-runner for NBA Rookie of the Year.
Sunday, Dec. 1, at New York, 6:30 p.m. Central (FSNOLA, Pelicans Radio Network)
New York’s seven-game losing streak is the Knicks’ longest of the Carmelo Anthony era, a rapid fall from last season’s division title and 54-win regular season. New York (3-11) began 2013-14 in so-so fashion, but an injury to center Tyson Chandler has left the team’s defense without its backbone. The Knicks also have not won at home since their Oct. 30 opener vs. Milwaukee, one of the few teams struggling to find the win column even more than New York.
Monday, Dec. 2, at Chicago, 7 p.m. Central (NBA League Pass)
The Bulls’ 2013-14 season took a heartbreaking turn in Portland on Nov. 22, when former league MVP Derrick Rose sustained a season-ending knee injury. It was an excruciating turn of events for Chicago and Rose, who missed the entire 2012-13 campaign with an ACL injury. The Bulls’ annual November road trip – necessitated by the circus visiting the United Center – began with four consecutive losses against West foes. Chicago ended its losing streak on Wednesday at Detroit, moving to the .500 mark at 7-7, after a 6-3 start.