Observers can understand why they divide the NBA season into two distinct halves: before and after the All-Star break.
However, the New York Knicks and New Orleans Pelicans, who are both in the thick of jumbled conferences, are aware of the urgency needed for the stretch after the All-Star break, which puts everyone much closer to the finish line than the starting line.
In the first matchup of the season between the Knicks and Pelicans, New York will play host to New Orleans on Saturday night, and both teams will be looking to improve their playoff positions.
After returning from their break on Friday and overcoming a 19-point first-half deficit to defeat the Washington Wizards, the Knicks will be playing a back-to-back set.
On Thursday, the Pelicans were defeated 115-110 by the Toronto Raptors as they resumed play and continued their four-game road trip.
New York won its ninth game in a row and fourth in a row overall.
Before Julius Randle scored 16 points in a 30-7 run that bridged the first and second halves, the Knicks were trailing the Wizards by 57-38 just past the halfway point of the second quarter.
Six lead changes and three tie-ups occurred in the fourth quarter before Jalen Brunson scored a layup with 42.1 seconds remaining to kick off the Knicks’ game-winning 6-0 run.
On Friday, only New York prevailed over the quartet of East teams that were spread out between fourth and seventh place.
The Knicks are currently in sixth place, which is the last spot that is guaranteed to make the playoffs. They are one and a half games ahead of the seventh-place Miami Heat and within three games of the fourth-place Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Thursday, Pelicans coach Willie Green appeared to act with the calendar in mind when he benched Trey Murphy III in favor of Josh Richardson, who had started 46 of the first 59 games this season. This was Richardson’s third game since he was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 9.
New Orleans saw no immediate benefits from the move. Even though Richardson played well for 28 minutes (11 points, 3 steals), the Pelicans were behind for more than 38 minutes on Thursday. In the fourth quarter, they were down 15 points by two points in the final minute.
The Pelicans’ playoff prospects were further muddled by the loss, as they are currently in a three-way tie for seventh place in the Western Conference with the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Sacramento Kings following Friday night’s victories. The Dallas Mavericks, who are in sixth place, are one and a half games ahead of the trio, as are the Los Angeles Clippers, who are in fifth place.