Extra Pass: Sliding Pelicans hoping to topple Kings

Published March 6, 2023, 3:00 PMPolo Bustamante

Catch these two West playoff hopefuls battle it out, live on NBA League Pass at 11:00 AM.

What’s up with the New Orleans Pelicans?

The Pelicans are hanging on to their play-in spot by their fingertips. They’ve lost six of their last eight games and have slowly slipped down the standings. They’re currently 10th in the West with a 31-33 record, only a half game above the LA Lakers who are gunning for their spot. 

Remember their 10-game losing streak that spanned January to February? The problems that they had during that stretch is still the same problem the team has during this current skid of theirs. The Pelicans still can’t generate enough offense to keep up with their opponents. They’re averaging less than 103 points per game in their last stix losses. That’s more than 11 points less than the league average of 114.3 points per game. In contrast, they’re averaging 112 points per game in their two wins in the past eight games. 

In those two wins, the Pelicans needed a supreme effort from Brandon Ingram to get the win. He scored 34 points in the win against the Oklahoma City Thunder and topped that with 40 points against the Portland Trail Blazers. In their six losses, Ingram was limited to less than 25 points a ball game. 

Where Ingram goes, the Pelicans go. That’s a major problem for a team fighting for a playoff spot because it makes them predictable. If the Sacramento Kings focus their defense on Ingram and manage to shut him down, the Pelicans will have to figure out where to get their buckets from.

What’s up with the Sacramento Kings?

If the Pelicans are slowly sinking, the Kings are flying high. Sacramento has fired off their beam seven times in the last 10 games. They not only have a firm grasp of the third seed, they’re also threatening to overtake the Memphis Grizzlies for second in the West. The Kings have a 37-26 record and are only 1.5 games back from the Grizzlies.

Sacramento’s gameplan is clear. They come into games ready to outscore their opponents. Currently the Kings have a 119.3 Offensive Rating. That number, if it stands, would be the best in the history of the NBA. That means, this is a historic team that everyone is watching.

The amazing thing about Sacramento is that they’re all empowered to score. Sure, Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox are the main weapons of the team. But these two aren’t limited to scoring. They’re able to create for the rest of the team with their passing as well. The Kings wouldn’t be as good as they are now if the players surrounding Sabonis and Fox aren’t making their shots.

Four other players are averaging double-digit scoring for the Kings. In their last win against the LA Clippers, fellow starters Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter, and Keegam Murray combined for 52 of the team’s 128 points. In their historic 176-point game against the Clippers a few games back, Malik Monk led the team in scoring with 45 points… coming off the bench.

That’s what makes the Kings such a dangerous team. Even if Fox and Sabonis are limited by the defense, they have more than enough firepower to make up for the lost points.

Storyline to watch out for

On paper, this seems like an easy blowout win for the Kings. But the missing ingredient is the desperation of the Pelicans. That’s what’s keeping them afloat right now. New Orleans NEEDS to win to avoid falling out of contention. That’s what could make this matchup more exciting.

What’s going for the Pelicans is that the Kings aren’t really known for defense. They’re 26th in the league in terms of Defensive Rating, allowing 116.8 points per game. That opens up opportunities for the Pelicans to get their offense going, especially Ingram who’s the focal point of the team’s offense right now.

The Kings’ defense needs to be on their toes because if a desperate New Orleans team gets the jump on them, they might find themselves in a shootout they didn’t intend to be in.


The numbers overwhelmingly point to an easy Kings win right now. It will take another special performance from Ingram, as well as key contributions from the remaining Pelicans to topple one of the best in the West.