The New Orleans Pelicans and NBA Play-In Tournament history.

It’s not quite the playoffs, but for a fan base that has stuck with the franchise through historic losing streaks, injuries to key players, coaching changes, and the indifference of the national media, it does represent the first real step forward for the Pelicans since the 2019 Anthony Davis trade. 

The Play-In Tournament has a brief history since it was first introduced during the “Bubble Season” of 2020, but some patterns have emerged over that small sample size. 

Only the 8th and 9th seeds competed for the final spot that first season, with the Memphis Grizzlies taking on the Portland Trail Blazers in the West. The East didn’t have two qualifying teams. 

Eighth-seeded Portland defeated Memphis 126-122 before bowing out in the first round to the Los Angeles Lakers in a gentleman’s sweep. 

Last season, the field included four teams from each conference for the first time. 

In the West, the higher seed won two of three games:

  • (7) Los Angeles Lakers def. (8) Golden State Warriors, 103-100
  • (9) Memphis Grizzlies def. (10) San Antonio Spurs, 100-96
  • (9) Memphis def. (8) Golden State, 117-112 (OT)

While in the East, it was chalk all the way:

  • (7) Boston Celtics def. (8) Washington Wizards, 118-100
  • (9) Indiana Pacers def. (10) Charlotte Hornets, 144-117
  • (8) Washington def. (9) Indiana, 142-115

So, what do the numbers show?

In seven games over two seasons, the higher-seeded team is 6-1. 

That means it is vital that the Pelicans hold off San Antonio to host that first game. Home court advantage is enormous in elimination situations. 

They also show that only one nine-seed, Memphis last year, of three has advanced to the playoffs. 

If New Orleans were to beat San Antonio in the first game, they would face either the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The Pels are 3-1 against the Clippers this season, 2-2 versus the Timberwolves, giving New Orleans a puncher’s chance at making the playoffs at the very least. 

First things first, however. 

There are still games against Portland, Memphis, and Golden State, with two of those at the Smoothie King Center. 

Before the Pels see if they can defy the odds, they have to take care of business.