NEW ORLEANS — When the Pelicans host Toronto tonight at the Smoothie King Center, they’ll begin the stretch run of a season that didn’t go the way they planned.
But while the playoffs are out of the question, there’s still something to prove.
And they’ll have the schedule to do it.
Eleven of New Orleans’ final 16 opponents are currently situated in a playoff spot. A 12th team is just one game out.
The Pelicans may be 27-39, but that’s not what this season is about anymore.
“You definitely have to have something to prove, towards the end of the year where you’re still trying to find chemistry and see how well we can do to finish up the year,” guard Eric Gordon said. “Individually, you just try to get better as a player. We definitely see how good we can be down the stretch.”
Much of the intrigue in the Pelicans from this point forward will deal not with what the team does, but in how their superstar second-year forward can coalesce with teammates while becoming the focus of other teams’ defensive efforts.
Gordon thinks Davis already is on his way.
“It’s all about chemistry,” said Gordon, who is averaging 15.7 points and 3.3 assists per game. “That’s our roles, is to score. I’m developing more into the system. He’s developing more into a big-time player as far as scoring down the stretch in so many various, different ways.”
They’ll get to see just how big-time is in this final month.
Among the games left on the Pelicans’ schedule:
- Toronto (No. 3 in the East)
- Atlanta (No. 8 in the East)
- Miami (No. 2 in the East)
- Brooklyn (No. 5 in the East)
- L.A. Clippers (No. 3 in the West)
- San Antonio (No. 1 in the West)
- Portland (No. 5 in the West)
- Phoenix (No. 9 in the West)
- Oklahoma City, twice (No. 2 in the West)
- Houston, twice (No. 4 in the West)
Gordon sees this difficult final run as a way to gauge where the team should be in the future.
“Every team is going to be tough somehow, some way whether you’re in the East or West,” he said. “It’s always good to learn and play tough teams down the stretch because future wise, (you’re) trying to make the playoffs and have that mindset.”