A pair of Western Conference teams are stuck in losing streaks as the NBA season enters February. The New Orleans Pelicans (26-26) are desperate to avoid a double-digit losing streak after losing nine games in a row. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs (14-38) lost seven games in a row as the second-worst team in the Western Conference.
In mid-December, the Pelicans seized the #1 seed in the Western Conference with an 18-9 record. They were among a trio of front runners, along with the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies, jockeying to become the first team in the West to reach 20 wins.
On the final day of 202, the Pelicans and Nuggets were tied for the best team in the Western Conference with a 23-12 record. However, 2023 has been dreadful for the Pelicans, who lost 14 out of their last 17 games, including nine in a row.
Forward Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans’ second-best scorer, recently returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous two months. He appeared in just 15 games before he was sidelined with a big toe injury at the end of November. Adding insult to that injury, power forward Zion Williamson sustained a hamstring injury in the first week of January, and the Pels haven’t been the same since then.
Futures Crash Without Williamson
The Pelicans opened the season at +4000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship. Their title odds reached a season-best of +1800 in mid-December before Williamson’s injury sent their season completely off the rails. The Pelicans are currently +3000 odds to win the NBA championship.
Williamson, the Pelicans’ leading scorer, had been playing like an MVP candidate before he strained his right hamstring. The Pelicans thought he’d only miss a couple of weeks, but his hamstring has yet to heal and he might be out until the All-Star Break in mid-February.
In late December, the Pelicans looked like a legitimate challenger to dethrone the Grizzlies for the Southwest Division title. During their current losing streak, the Pelicans saw their divisional odds jump to +1700. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies (32-19) are running away with the Southwest crown as a consensus favorite at -1200 odds.
FiveThirtyEight projects the Pelicans have a 61% chance to make the playoffs. They estimate the Pelicans have a 4% chance to advance to the 2023 NBA Finals, and only a 1% chance to win the championship.
Bumpy February for the Pelicans
The Pelicans play 10 games in February, and every opponent poses a tough challenge for them. They face potential playoff squads, including the Dallas Mavericks (27-25), Sacramento Kings (29-21), Cleveland Cavaliers (31-22), and New York Knicks (27-25). They also square off against several playoff bubble teams, including the Atlanta Hawks (26-26), Toronto Raptors (23-20), and Los Angeles Lakers (24-28) on two occasions.
The Spurs end the month with a home game against the Orlando Magic (20-32). Even though the Magic are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, they’re a deceptive foe and are playing their best ball of the season. The Magic are also of the better teams when it comes to covering the point spread this season, with a 29-22-1 record against the spread (ATS).
The Pelicans have a 24-28 ATS record this season. Since New Year’s Eve, they beat the spread only five times in their last 17 games. During their current nine-game losing streak, the Pelicans are 2-7 ATS.
The Pelicans visit the Mavs in Dallas on Thursday night for a chance to avoid a 10-game losing streak. Luka Dončić bounced back from an ankle injury, and the Mavs are tough at home with an 18-9 record.
Oddsmakers installed the Mavs as a -5.5 favorite against the Pelicans. Bettors backed the Pelicans on the overnight line and the point spread moved a full point. The Mavs are now a favorite by -4.5.
If the Pelicans lose to the Mavs, they’ll face back-to-back opponents this weekend against the Lakers and Kings. LeBron James from the Lakers is chasing the NBA regular-season scoring record, and he’s in peak form right now while trying to top Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record. The Kings have the third-best record in the Western Conference, and they’re the second-best betting team in the NBA this season by covering the point spread in 63% of their games.
Spurs Targeting Wembanyama
It’s hard to criticize the bottom feeders in the NBA this season with the rise of Victor Wembanyama. The big-man prospect from France has lived up to the hype, so much so that the NBA televises the games for his French club team in Europe.
Wembanyama is a 7-foot-3 center who plays like a big guard. He’s drawn comparisons to Tim Duncan, who was one of the all-time greatest players to ever wear a Spurs uniform. The Spurs haven’t been the same since Duncan retired, and the team is eager to land a once-in-a-generation talent to turn around the struggling franchise.
The Spurs have little incentive to win games this season, which is one of the reasons they’re in the middle of a seven-game losing streak. They had an 11-game skid that began in November and finally ended in early December.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Spurs are projected to finish the season with a 22-60 record as the second-worst team in the NBA.
The Spurs are ridiculous long shots to win the Southwest Division at +100000 odds. It’s also not surprising to see the Spurs at the bottom of DraftKings’ futures board at +100000 odds to win the NBA championship.
On Deck for the Spurs: Road Warriors
The Spurs complete a four-game homestand when the surging Philadelphia 76ers (33-17) visit town on Friday night. It’s their last chance to play for their die-hard fans before they hit the road for the remainder of February.
The All-Star Break is sandwiched between two road trips. The Spurs play nine road games during the rest of the month but have a week off with the All-Star Break.
The Spurs play six road games in nine nights prior to the break. There’s a favorable chance the Spurs can finally end their skid next week against weaker teams from the Eastern Conference. Aside from the Atlanta Hawks (26-26), their other three opponents — the Chicago Bulls (23-27), Toronto Raptors (23-30), and Detroit Pistons (13-39) — all have losing records. The Pistons are one of two teams that have fewer wins than the Spurs (14).
After the break, the Spurs have a three-game road trip against the Charlotte Hornets (15-37), before playing back-to-back games against the Utah Jazz (27-26) to end the month.
The Spurs have a 23-29 ATS record. During their recent losing streak, the Spurs are 1-6 ATS and failed to beat the point spread in six consecutive games.
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