A streak has to start somewhere.
For the New Orleans Pelicans this season, there rarely have been enough steady performances to sense one coming. But after consecutive victories highlighted by rapid ball movement, visible energy and smooth shooting, confidence is starting to creep in.
It’s just the third time the Pelicans (13-26) have won consecutive games, and they aim to match a season-long three-game winning streak when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the FedEx Forum.
“We are right there; we just have to make a good run,” shooting guard Eric Gordon said. “It would be great to start now, instead of doing it later. We still have plenty of games and plenty of opportunity.”
If they can pull it off, the timing couldn’t be better to build a significant streak.
Following Monday, New Orleans hosts its next seven games at the Smoothie King Center, starting Tuesday night against Minnesota and stretching to Feb. 1. Four of the seven opponents have losing records, leaving an opportunity for the Pelicans to push closer to .500.
Despite the ugly record and numerous missed chances, the Pelicans are just 41/2 games out of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
“We have already talked about it,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “This is our chance to kind of get ourselves back in the playoff race, because as we’ve talked about, except for Golden State, San Antonio, the Clippers ... and Oklahoma City, everything else is kind of jumbled up there from five through 10. We have to get ourselves into that area. With the number of games we have at home, it’s going to be an opportunity for us to do it.”
The Pelicans have been in this position before and failed to take advantage. The team’s only three-game winning streak came in late November and was followed immediately by four straight losses.
Even as the playoff picture in the West has sagged to its lowest point in at least 15 years, New Orleans hasn’t been able to gain any ground.
“We have to handle (Monday) first,” guard Norris Cole said. “But then we come home, (and) we have to handle business at home. We have to take advantage of being at home. We just have to. That’s the bottom line.”
Across the board, Pelicans players said this brief resurgence has been ignited by unselfishness offensively, keying two hot shooting performances. In victories at Sacramento and vs. Charlotte, New Orleans connected on 28 3-pointers, converting 46.7 percent of its attempts.
It was the byproduct of averaging 28 assists in those two games, seven more than they have averaged for the season.
“I would say this is as good as we’ve passed it all year,” Gordon said. “You will see good results as long as we pass the ball. So as long as we just keep preaching it, we will be OK.
“I think it gives us energy on defense, and also you get good looks all of the time. Now it’s just time for us to knock them down and keep up with what we’ve been doing the past couple of games, because it makes everybody happy.”
More importantly, the increased passing hasn’t led to an abundance of turnovers — like it did early in the season, when shifting lineups and unfamiliarity with the system often led to a bevy of mistakes. While it’s a small sample size, the Pelicans committed just 26 combined turnovers in their past three games, the best in the NBA over that span.
“We just have to find a way to get on a little winning streak and get back as close to .500 as we can,” Gordon said. “You just have to do what’s right to try to win games, like moving the ball and playing well on defense.
“We have seen we are capable of winning games and, once we do that, I think we can put together a lot of winning streaks for the rest of the season.”