New Orleans (11-10) becomes a unique part of NBA history Monday, participating in the first night of the quarterfinal (knockout) stage of the inaugural In-Season Tournament. The third-seeded Pelicans will visit second-seeded Sacramento at 9 p.m. Central in the Western Conference portion of the bracket. The game is being broadcast locally by Bally Sports and 99.5 FM (pregame coverage on both is at 8:30). Nationally, TNT has the TV call. Prior to Pelicans-Kings, Boston and Indiana will tip off the night in the Eastern Conference at 6:30 on TNT.
The Pelicans are gradually getting closer to full strength. Read Sunday’s injury report for New Orleans. On the Sacramento side, Chris Duarte (knee) is questionable. Alex Len (ankle) is out.
Expect a playoff-like atmosphere Monday in Golden 1 Center. The quarterfinal tips off a Week 7 for New Orleans that is mostly to be determined schedule-wise. If the Pelicans win Monday, they will face either Phoenix or the Lakers in Thursday’s semifinals (in Las Vegas). A loss would mean a Friday 7 p.m. home game vs. the loser of Suns-Lakers. The Dec. 9-10 weekend will either feature an appearance in Saturday’s championship game, or an opportunity to practice prior to a Dec. 11 home game vs. Minnesota.
How did the Pelicans emerge as one of the eight teams still in contention for the first NBA Cup? Some of their best performances this season have occurred in tournament play.
In addition to obvious In-Season Tournament implications, New Orleans also has a chance this week to gain ground on some of its West competitors. The Pelicans are 1.5 games behind Sacramento (11-7) and Phoenix (12-8) in the standings, as well as a game behind the seventh-place Lakers (12-9). Every game this week counts in team records, with the exception of Saturday’s IST championship in Las Vegas (those two teams will play 83 games in 2023-24).