Posted on April 8, 2018, by Travis Pulver
At this time of year, NBA fans are typically doing one of two things. They are either wishing their team was going to make the playoffs or celebrating that they are. Technically, fans of the New Orleans Pelicans can’t start celebrating yet. But things are certainly looking good for their team. The question is how good.
But it isn’t just Pelicans supporters watching how the regular season plays out for New Orleans. Fans of the other Western Conference playoffs teams are a little curious as well. Why?
Because they don’t want to face them.
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Recently, they had a good run of bad luck against other playoff-bound teams with losses to Houston (114-91), Portland (107-103), Cleveland (107-102), and Oklahoma City (109-104). But Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors they proved they can step up against the best.
Not only can they hang with the big dogs, but they can beat them too.
Defense was in short supply for either team in the first quarter as New Orleans got out to a 40-32 lead. However, the Warriors were able to pick-up their game a little more in the second quarter. But thanks to an Anthony Davis bucket to end the half, the Warriors went into the break down by two, 67-65.
But like the Warriors are prone to do, they roared back in the third quarter behind a monster performance by one of their superstars. This time it was Kevin Durant who scored 19 points in the third and helped give Golden State a four-point lead, 92-88, heading into the final quarter.
While Durant did keep the Warriors in the game, he ended up costing them down the stretch with a costly turnover. It led to an 18-footer by E’Twaun Moore that gave the Pelicans a 123-119 lead with 23.5 seconds left to play.
Anthony Davis finished off the scoring moments later to make the final, 126-120 for New Orleans.
“I just thought we played about as perfect as you have to play to beat them,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said after the game (ESPN). “They’re just such a great team. They just keep coming at you. We were never comfortable.”
Davis finished the game with 34 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the month. Nikola Mirotic had a strong night from the floor hitting 10-18 (6-11 from three-point range) for 28 points. Jrue Holliday chipped in 25.
But one good game does not a playoff contender make. The Pelicans lost the season series to the Warriors, Rockets, and Jazz, 3-1. They split it with the Trail Blazers, 2-2. Minnesota swept their series (4-0), but they beat the Spurs and Thunder, 2-1.
So—if they’ve beaten them before, why should anyone be worried about them now?
Easy—because it’s often the team that has the talent but sometimes struggles to put it together that will figure out how to do so come playoff time. With the starting five that they have, led by superstar Anthony Davis, it doesn’t matter which seed they are.
Whoever they play is going to be seriously tested by the Pelicans.