Can Zion Williamson, the former #1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a playoff berth? The NBA released its restart schedule and hoops fans in New Orleans were eager to see who the Pelicans will face in the final eight games before the playoffs begin.
The Pelicans (28-36) are one of the numerous playoff bubble teams in the Western Conference. The Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) are currently in the #8 spot, but the Portland Trail Blazers (29-37), Pelicans, and Sacramento Kings (28-36) are all just 3.5 games behind.
The Pelicans will face the Kings twice. They don’t meet the Trail Blazers, but they will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the third game back.
In their first three games back, the will Pelicans battle three west teams currently holding a playoff seed: the Utah Jazz, the LA Clippers, and the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Pelicans then have a four-game stretch against bubble teams before ending the restart with a final game against the Orlando Magic (#8 seed in the east).
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS RESTART SCHEDULE
Utah Jazz (7/30)
LA Clippers (8/1)
Memphis Grizzlies (8/3)
Sacramento Kings (8/6)
Washington Wizards (8/7)
San Antonio Spurs (8/9)
Sacramento Kings (8/11)
Orlando Magic (8/13)
Big business interests, aka the NBA’s media partners and TV advertisers, would love to see the Pelicans go on a heater in the restart to secure the #8 seed. A showdown between the Pelicans and the top-seeded Lakers equates to must-see TV.
Zion Tips Scales in NOLA
The Pelicans were the fourth-best scoring team in the NBA before the shutdown, averaging 116.4 points per game. Brandon Ingram leads the Pels with 24.2 points per game. Zion, in just 19 games, averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 assists per game.
The Pelicans started the season 17-27 without Zion. The rookie from Duke and #1 overall pick made his long-awaited debut on January 22 against the San Antonio Spurs. Zion dropped 22 points in 18 minutes of action, including going 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
The Pelicans are 11-9 with Zion. If you toss out his first two games (both losses), the Pelicans went 11-7 with the rookie.
In 22 games of limited action, Zion posted a career-high with 35 points in a 122-114 loss to the Lakers in early March. Zion shot a highly efficient 12-for-16 from the floor and 11-for-13 from the free-throw line.
LeBron James let Zion know who’s still the big dog in the league. LeBron secured the victory while dropping a triple-double with 34 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds.
Fans caught a glimpse of a potential playoff showdown between the Lakers and Pelicans with LeBron and Zion going back-and-forth in a fantastic performance.
In their first meeting a week earlier, LeBron torched the Pelicans for 40 points in a victory. Zion added 25 points and six rebounds in the loss.