Zion Williamson powers up for a shot against Joel Embiid of Philadelphia

Top New Orleans Pelicans home games in 2021-22

by Jim Eichenhofer

With seven of the eight most recent NBA Most Valuable Player award winners scheduled to visit the Crescent City by mid-December, the early portion of New Orleans’ 41-game home schedule is filled with marquee opponents. Last season’s NBA Finals teams both come to Louisiana in December, while the No. 1 seeds from each conference will be in the Smoothie King Center for Opening Night and in early January.

Narrowing down the home slate to its most attractive contests has perhaps never been more difficult, with star power spread across the league and recent NBA drafts providing an influx of high-impact talent, but Pelicans.com gave it a shot. Here are 15 of the top home tilts in 2021-22:

Wednesday, Oct. 20 vs. Philadelphia


New Orleans will try to win its home opener for a second straight season (it edged San Antonio in December 2020) against some formidable competition. 76ers center Joel Embiid finished second in MVP voting and led Philadelphia to the East’s No. 1 seed last season, his first playing for Coach Doc Rivers.

Wednesday, Oct. 27 vs. Atlanta (ESPN)


The rivalry between these cities in basketball is nowhere near “NFC South level” at this stage, but ESPN selected this matchup perhaps partly due to the rising young talent on the Pelicans and Hawks. Atlanta point guard Trae Young was one of the biggest breakthrough stars of the wildly unpredictable 2021 playoffs.

Friday, Nov. 12 vs. Brooklyn


Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving are one of the NBA’s most well-known trios, but due to injuries, they were rarely in the lineup together in 2020-21. This mid-November trip to the Crescent City marks the Nets’ lone appearance in the Smoothie King Center.

Wednesday, Dec. 1 vs. Dallas


In 10 career games against New Orleans, Luka Doncic has averaged 28.5 points, the second-most for the Mavericks’ star guard while facing any Western Conference opponent (he’s put up 30.3 ppg vs. Portland in 11 matchups). Dallas also visits New Orleans in the final game before the February All-Star break.

Wednesday, Dec. 8 vs. Denver


Reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic picks apart defenses with his unique combination of deft passing, soft perimeter touch and crafty moves around the basket. The Nuggets claimed the third seed in the West last season despite injuries to dynamic guard Jamal Murray and other key players.

Friday, Dec. 17 vs. Milwaukee (ESPN)


The defending NBA champion Bucks are led by two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and bring a familiar face back to the Crescent City in guard Jrue Holiday. The Milwaukee-New Orleans matchup has been a popular pick for national TV networks since Zion Williamson’s debut in 2019-20.

Monday, Jan. 3 vs. Utah


New Orleans’ first home game on the 2022 calendar features the team that finished in first place in the Western Conference last season. The Jazz and Pelicans have played some very entertaining games in recent years, including Brandon Ingram’s career-high 49-point game vs. Utah in a January 2020 win for the Pels.

Tuesday, Jan. 4 vs. Phoenix


What a challenging back-to-back for the Pelicans, who on the second night of the set host the defending Western Conference champion Suns. Phoenix’s backcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul led the Suns to a spectacular 2021 postseason run.

Thursday, Jan. 6 vs. Golden State


Basketball fans everywhere are rejoicing that the Warriors will have their championship trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green back together on the court, after Thompson had been sidelined by injuries for two seasons. The three Warriors faced New Orleans in both the 2015 and 2018 playoffs.

Saturday, Jan. 29 vs. Boston


The Celtics were the guests last season for what was the most entertaining home game of 2020-21 for the Pelicans, an overtime thriller in which Ingram drained a crucial three-pointer in the extra period. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown present a formidable defensive challenge for Pelicans wing defenders.

Thursday, Feb. 10 vs. Miami (TNT)


After winning the East crown in the 2020 bubble, the Heat were bounced in the first round last season by eventual NBA champion Milwaukee, but Miami sought help this summer. The Heat gained veteran savvy by acquiring point guard Kyle Lowry and rugged forward P.J. Tucker. Both were recent NBA champions.

Tuesday, Feb. 15 vs. Memphis


The Pelicans have enjoyed uncanny head-to-head success against the Grizzlies over the past two seasons, going 5-1. There will be an intriguing battle in the paint between two players traded for each other this offseason, New Orleans center Jonas Valanciunas and Grizzlies pivot Steven Adams.

Friday, March 11 vs. Charlotte


Pelicans trade pickup Devonte’ Graham gets his first crack at facing some of his ex-teammates, after spending his first three pro seasons in Charlotte. The Hornets have emerged as an NBA League Pass favorite, spearheaded by 2020-21 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball and his highlight-reel passing.

Thursday, March 24 vs. Chicago


Speaking of players and ex-teams, Pelicans veterans Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple will get reacquainted with the Bulls, who dealt them in a trade that brought point guard Lonzo Ball to the Windy City. Chicago has made several major additions in 2021, including Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan.

Sunday, March 27 vs. LA Lakers


Due to the NBA’s rotating schedule for non-divisional opponents, this is the Lakers’ lone stop in New Orleans this season. Los Angeles has added former league MVP Russell Westbrook to a roster full of familiar faces, headlined by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but also including Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.

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