At the beginning of this year’s campaign who would have expected that the Oklahoma City Thunder will be battling with the New Orleans Pelicans for a playoff spot at the end of the regular season. Not a lot of people I suppose. The Thunder were one of the main title contenders before the start of the season, but bad luck ruined their dreams. Not only did Kevin Durant spent a big part of the campaign watching from the sidelines, but Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook were often sitting in suits besides him. Moreover, in February Ibaka was also lost for the season due to an injury.
The team that has benefited the most from these injuries is the New Orleans Pelicans. If OKC had all of its stars healthy, the Pelicans would have never stood a chance to get in the playoffs. I don’t want to underestimate the effort that Anthony Davis and all the other members of New Orleans have made, but a healthy Thunder squad is light years ahead of them. However, OKC has been the exact opposite of a healthy team and because of that the Pelicans have pretty good chances of participating in the playoffs.
The team led by Anthony Davis is currently occupying the eight spot in the Western Conference and has a slight advantage over the Thunder. Dion Waiters has recently stated the following:
“We control our own destiny, they control their own destiny.”
However, he is not completely right. The Thunder team has four games left on their schedule, and the Pelicans have five. Even if OKC wins all four of their upcoming matches, the will need New Orleans to lose at least two times. That is because the Pelicans hold the tie-breaker if the two squads finish with the same record.
However, Westbrook and his teammates have some very realistic chances of getting the eight seed in the West. They have lighter schedule compared to the Pelicans, and it could be crucial down the stretch. OKC will play against the Kings, Pacers, Trail Blazers and Timberwolves while New Orleans will have to face the Grizzlies, Suns, Rockets, Timberwolves, and Spurs. All four games for the Thunder are quite winnable while for the Pelicans it won’t be hard to lose two or more games. The Grizzlies, Rockets, and Spurs are fighting hard to get better playoffs positions, and the Pelicans will have a pretty hard time against them.
It will be quite interesting to see what is going to happen as the regular season comes to its end. In my opinion, the Thunder will find a way to get wins in all of their games while the Thunder will lose at least to the Spurs and Rockets.