A 5th Straight Win Against Kings Would Keep Pelicans in Driver’s Seat to Avoid Play-In

After their disappointing and disastrous 1-5 home stand, the New Orleans Pelicans have once again found their winning ways away from the Smoothie King Center.

The Pelicans have opened their final west coast road trip with wins over the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, pushing them back into sixth place in the Western Conference standings with three games to play.

Tonight, New Orleans opens a northern California back-to-back with the Sacramento Kings. The Pelicans have dominated the Kings this season, taking all four matchups thus far. A fifth win over a single team in the regular season would be unprecedented in the modern era.

Vs. Kings40126.554.

A lot of things about the Pelicans’ season has been unprecedented. Their victory over the Portland Trail Blazers tied the franchise record for road wins (26), and they are a lock to advance to the postseason for the third straight season for the first time ever.

Though there is some debate as to whether someone can control their own destiny, the Pelicans do have as much control of their playoff positioning as possible. Their final three games are against three of the four teams directly beneath them in the standings. New Orleans holds a two-game advantage over the Kings, three games over the Warriors, and 2.5 over the Los Angeles Lakers.

If the Pelicans can win all three, they will earn 50 wins for just the second time in franchise history and be guaranteed a spot in the first round of the playoffs. Winning this back-to-back won’t be easy, but New Orleans does have a better road winning percentage (.650) than either Sacramento (.605) or Golden State (.512) do at home.

For whatever reason, the Pelicans are just better on the road. Even against winning teams New Orleans has posted a respectable 14-10 (.583) mark outside of the Smoothie King Center.

The Kings enter tonight’s game after finishing up a four-game road trip of their own, where they went just 1-3. Sacramento is also playing without two of its top six players, as sharpshooter Kevin Huerter (10.2 pts, 36.1 3P%) and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Malik Monk (15.4 pts, 5.1 ast) are both sidelined with injuries.

Keys to Victory

Filling the Void. The Pelicans will face the Kings for the first time without Brandon Ingram this season. In his previous four games against Sacramento, BI averaged a team-high 24.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, while shooting 52.9% from the floor and converting 55.6% of this three-pointers (2.5 3PM/G). His +/- of 17.5 ranked second only to Trey Murphy’s 21.5. Over his last 10 starts Murphy III is averaging 15.9 ppg, while shooting just over 33% from deep. The Pelicans will have to find ways to get Murphy easier looks below the break and in transition, while Trey will have to look to put the ball on the floor a bit more to force the Kings to react to him defensively. New Orleans will also need to get more production from its bench with Murphy as a starter and Naji Marshall likely out.

Jonas vs. Sabonis. Jonas Valanciunas has seen his minutes fluctuate as Willie Green has relied much more on small ball as of late. However, Valanciunas has always been an effective player against the Kings and against All-Star center Domantas Sabonis in particular. In 25.1 minutes per game, Jonas has averaged 14.5 pts and 11.8 rebs versus Sacramento on 64.7% shooting. Meanwhile, Sabonis has posted 19.0 pts, 10.5 rebs, and 7.5 asts against the Pelicans; all below his season averages (19.4, 13.8, 8.2). Sabonis recently saw his string of 61 consecutive games with a double-double come to an end, the seventh-longest in NBA history. Watch this matchup closely.

CJ’s McCollum Steps Up. The Kings just finished a long road trip and the Pelicans are in the middle of one. Over the last 15 games or so, as Brandon Ingram and Jose Alvarado have missed time, CJ McCollum’s minutes have gone up considerably. CJ is averaging more than 36 minutes per game. In the month of April he leads the Pelicans at 39.1 mpg, topping 40 minutes in three of his last eight contests.

Team W/L2-13-19-47-77-310-42-3
CJ McCollum’s Minutes Per Game 2023-24

At 32 years of age McCollum is the oldest player on the roster, though his overall play as of late has shown little indication of falling off. He’s one of only five players to appear in each of the last 12 games and he’s responded by leading the team in scoring (25.1), assists (5.3), and overall +/- (5.0). CJ ranks fourth in the NBA in average threes made (4.4) and 11th in 3P% (44.1) during that time. Unfortunately, when CJ is logging heavy minutes, it usually means the rest of the backcourt hasn’t done its job.

When CJ plays more than 38 minutes this season, the Pels are 4-6. The good news is that they are 2-0 on the road, with wins over San Antonio and Phoenix.

McCollum has been the veteran leader the Pelicans have needed with Ingram sidelined and his battle with De’Aaron Fox could determine the outcome of tonight’s game.

Most Recent Starting Lineups

New Orleans PelicansSacramento Kings
G – CJ McCollumG – De’Aaron Fox
G – Herb JonesG – Keon Ellis
F – Trey MurphyF – Keegan Murray
F – Zion WilliamsonF – Harrison Barnes
C – Jonas ValanciunasC – Domantas Sabonis


New Orleans Pelicans: Brandon Ingram (left knee bone contusion) and Larry Nance Jr. (personal reasons) are OUT.

Sacramento Kings: Kevin Heurter (shoulder) and Malik Monk (knee) are OUT.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (47-32) at Portland Trail Blazers (45-34)

Season Series

  • Nov. 20: Pelicans def. Kings, 129-93
  • Nov. 22: Pelicans def. Kings, 117-112
  • Dec. 4: Pelicans def. Kings, 127-117 (In-Season Tournament)
  • Jan. 7: Pelicans def. Kings, 133-100
  • Apr. 11: New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings

Where: Golden 1 Center

When: Apr. 11, 9:00 PM CDT

Where to watch: TNT

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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