The New Orleans Pelicans will play the Minnesota Timberwolves today and there’s so much at stake for the postseason on this Easter Sunday.
Notching a victory in the final game of the 2022-23 regular season, the Pelicans would finish no worse than eighth in the Western Conference standings. They could potentially climb as high as fifth by day’s end, pending the outcomes of contests involving the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
If the Pelicans fall to the Wolves, on the other hand, they could wind up ninth, needing to win two play-in tournament games in order to reach the 2023 playoffs.
With the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns all slated to be without the majority of their regulars, it’s highly probable that the Lakers, Warriors and Clippers win their matchups today.
If the scenario unfolds as such, and coupled with a win Sunday by New Orleans, the Pelicans will travel to Los Angeles for the No. 7 vs No. 8 play-in game against the Lakers, with the winner solidifying the seventh seed in the playoffs and the loser hosting the victor of the No. 9 vs No. 10 play-in game.
However, if the Pelicans drop today’s game in Minnesota, they’ll return to New Orleans to host the OKC Thunder in the No. 9 vs No. 10 play-in game, needing to traverse a very similar route as last year’s team to find the playoffs as the eight seed.
The Pelicans are entering this afternoon’s matchup having won nine of their last 11 games, with Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones and Trey Murphy playing some of the best basketball of their careers. On the flip side, the Wolves have struggled somewhat. They’ve won six of their last eleven and only a victory against the Spurs included a comfortable double-digit winning margin.
That said, the Pelicans find themselves on the road where they’ve won 15 times in 40 attempts to date.
“Treat it like every other game,” Murphy said after Friday’s win over the New York Knicks. “After the All-Star break, every game has meant a lot in the Western Conference standings. We are going to treat it like every other game. Playoff atmosphere and playoff game. We are trying to make it to the playoffs again.”
Game No. 82 was of no particular importance one year ago, with the Pelicans having sewn up the No. 9 seed. It’s a vastly different story today. Beat the Timberwolves, and at worst, New Orleans requires only one play-in victory out of two possible chances to advance to the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Who: New Orleans Pelicans (42-39) at Minnesota Timberwolves (41-40)
When: April 9, 2:30 p.m. CT
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass
Where to listen: WRNO 99.5