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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) hobbles off the court in the second half as New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry watches during an NBA basketball game in the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, La. Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.

The Sacramento loss is still bugging New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry.

There's a massive pack shaping the caboose of the Western Conference's postseason picture, featuring as many as six teams behind the West's giants in the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.

Most importantly to Gentry, the Pelicans are a threatening part of that mix.

But so are the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Denver Nuggets, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Utah Jazz and the star-laden Oklahoma City Thunder.

Prior to Wednesday, the Pelicans have alternated wins and losses in consecutive games since Dec. 1, including that troubling 116-109 overtime defeat to the Kings at the Smoothie King Center — a home loss the veteran-led, star-clustered Pelicans hoped to avoid as they contend for their first postseason berth in years.

“The only really disturbing loss was the Sacramento one at home," Gentry said. "You know, when you’re playing a schedule that has some of the teams we’re playing, you know you have to try to do the best you can."

With the sixth-toughest strength of schedule entering this season, New Orleans put a premium on wins and an embargo on losses, especially in the first full-length season of the Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins power combo, which was sure to need time to gel alongside the likes of Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo.

Twenty-nine games into the 82-game season, including Wednesday's 115-108 win against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pelicans are loosely fastened to one of the West's eight postseason seats with a 15-14 record through more than a quarter of the season.

As of mid-December, months away from a playoff conversation carrying a much heavier meaning, that's all that matters to Gentry.

"We're in a decent place," the coach said before Wednesday's game. "Obviously we could've won a few more games here and there. But we're in the middle of the race and I think that's the most important thing. We’re not in a position where we’re so devastated with injuries or anything to we’re not in the middle of the race."

"We're putting ourselves in a good position," said guard Jrue Holiday. "Obviously, there are some good teams over here in the West and it's just the first quarter of the season. We're not at a disadvantage. That's awesome."

The Pelicans will depart for Denver’s Pepsi Center to face the Nuggets for the second time this season in high altitude on Friday. Including Friday’s contest, New Orleans will have played nine games in 15 days — so the schedule's soon to slow down.

New Orleans will not return to the Smoothie King Center until after Christmas, when it will host the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 27. The Pelicans have just four road games in the next two weeks, one at Denver, another at the Washington Wizards and a Dec. 22-23 back-to-back at Orlando and Miami.

More will be known about the future — and ceiling — of this Pelicans team at and beyond the turn of 2018's new year, where an 8-10-game stretch can make or break New Orleans' season, Gentry says.

"Hopefully somewhere along the line we can make that run where, you know, we’re very consistent and have that 8 out of 10, or something like that, run," he said. "I think that’s what’s going to end up eventually separating the pack."