Pelicans looking forward to season-long homestand
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Every NBA team plays essentially the same 82-game schedule, with an equal number of home and road contests, but forgive the New Orleans Pelicans if at times they’ve wondered if things would ever even out in 2013-14. Through 61 total games, the Pelicans have played fewer home contests than any of the league’s 30 teams. The flip side of that, of course, is that New Orleans now has an NBA-most 14 games remaining in its home arena.
Starting with Friday’s matchup in the Smoothie King Center vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pelicans will get to enjoy a season-long six-game homestand. They won’t leave Louisiana again until a March 20 flight to Atlanta.
“It’s just good to be home,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “We had a long (road) trip, a tough trip. Now we’ve got a long stretch here where we can sleep in our own beds, practice here (in Metairie) and have more time to really look at our game and our team. We don’t have a lot of practice time on the road, especially when we have back-to-backs. We can get a lot of things done here.”
At the top of the list of things for the Pelicans to accomplish during the six-game stretch (Milwaukee is followed by Denver, Memphis, Portland, Boston and Toronto) is to establish a greater homecourt advantage. New Orleans has gone just 13-14 at home, winning only two more games in front of its fans than on the road (11-23). Although three of the six upcoming opponents are projected playoff teams, the Pelicans are a combined 7-3 overall against the clubs, highlighted by a 3-0 mark vs. the Grizzlies. None of the six visitors has won in the Smoothie King Center in 2013-14, though the Bucks, Celtics and Raptors have yet to play in the Big Easy.
“It’s going to be important for us to rack up some wins at home,” said forward Tyreke Evans, who’s averaging 21.8 in his four recent starts. “We’ve got to come to play in front of our fans. We don’t want to come out just to say we played hard. We want to win the game. We’ve got to do a better job of winning games at home.”
A team with playoff aspirations prior to injuries ravaging its lineup, New Orleans is 11.5 games out of eighth place in the Western Conference, meaning there won’t be postseason hoops in the Crescent City this spring. However, Pelicans players believe a quality finish to 2013-14 is important as they head into the offseason and look forward to a 2014-15 hopefully less impacted by health.
“It’s great to be back home. Those (road) trips wear you down,” guard Austin Rivers said. “We want to take advantage of this homestand. Obviously, we know what our situation is right now as far as the playoff picture and stuff like that goes. But that’s not what it’s about for us right now. It’s about us getting better and winning. At the end of the day, our job is to go out there and win. We’re trying to win every game and trying to finish this season on a positive note. If we finish this season winning most of our games, it will feel a lot better going into the summer.”
“It’s real important to finish the season out strong,” Evans said. “It’s going to be big for us. Showing that we’re not giving up is important, and to carry that over to next year.”