Pelicans achieved plenty despite series loss to Warriors
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 9, 2018
The final minutes of Game 5 perfectly encapsulated the Western Conference Semifinal series between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Golden State Warriors.
There were the Warriors, one of the greatest teams assembled in NBA history, holding on to a 21-point lead; and there were the Pelicans, still scratching, clawing, and fighting to get back into the game.
New Orleans cut the deficit to nine, but ultimately came up short, as they lost the game, 113-103, and the series four games to one.
“We have to game plan for so many things, that, you know, you have to pick your poison, and if your poison is, you know, letting Durant be the scorer, that just tells you the potency of this team I think,” said New Orleans Head Coach Alvin Gentry.
“The one thing I’ll say is that I was really proud because we could have easily stopped playing. That’s not in our DNA, none of the guys, and so we were going to compete until the final buzzer went off. We came very close to, you know, really getting back in the game with four minutes to go, but you know, they made a couple of plays because that’s kind of who they are.”
The Pelicans gave the Warriors a more competitive series than the win tally would indicate. That’s a credit to every player and member of the coaching staff. In nearly every game, New Orleans was ready to play from the outset. Their effort can’t be questioned.
“We never give up,” said Jrue Holiday, who finished with his first career playoff triple-double. Holiday scored 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and handed out 11 assists. “I think I said that last, last game. No matter what the score is, no matter the time, whatever it is, we play desperate and I felt like we did that tonight.”
Losing the series shouldn’t put a damper on the franchise’s most successful campaign in a decade and quite possibly its most entertaining.
“We feel like we’re headed in the right direction as a franchise,” Gentry added. “We got one of the three or four best players in the league, which is great to build on.”
“I think Jrue Holiday had a great year. Rondo has been a terrific addition to our team from the standpoint of leadership and what he’s done. It’s a positive in that we think we’re headed in the right direction.”
“We’re disappointed. Even losing to the champs, you’ve got to be disappointed and that’s one of the things I like about our team is that we came in here with the expectation of winning. If you’re not going to do it, I don’t know how you advance. So I think we’ll be okay in the future, and you know, we’re looking forward to it.”
That attitude is what has so many fans excited about the team’s prospects for the future. For the first time in a long time, the New Orleans Pelicans are relevant.
The Pelicans won 48 games, third best in team history and advanced to the Conference Semifinals for the second time ever. Alvin Gentry’s 5-4 record in the postseason gives him to second-most wins for the Pels (Byron Scott leads with 8).
After DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season, Dell Demps pulled a rabbit out of the hat by trading Omer Asik, Tony Allen, and Jameer Nelson and a number one pick for Nikola Mirotić and a second rounder.
Mirotic proved to be the stretch four that Gentry had been looking for since he arrived in New Orleans. The Pelicans adopted an up tempo style that unleashed Davis upon the league and revealed Jrue Holiday’s multifaceted talents on a nightly basis.
The Pelicans had the NBA’s ninth-best record the rest of the way, going 21-13. And that was after losing five of their first six games with Cousins sidelined. It also included a 10-game win streak and a five game stretch that secured the teams place in the playoffs.
The team shed its reputation folding down the stretch with 30 “clutch” victories, tying the Cleveland Cavaliers for most in the league.
New Orleans became a team that no one wanted to play. Between Davis, Holiday, Rajon Rondo, and pace that even took the Warriors breath away, the Pels were a matchup nightmare.
They attacked the paint relentlessly, and led the NBA in points in the paint (52.4 per game).
Four different Pelicans (Cousins, Davis, Rondo, and Holiday) had triple-doubles this season, making them only the second team ever to accomplish the feat.
Davis and Cousins were named All-Star starters; the first duo in franchise history to earn that distinction.
AD was named the Western Conference Player of the month for February after tore through the league, averaging 35 points, 13 boards, 2.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks. He also became the first Hornets/Pelicans player to earn multiple Player of the Week awards since Chris Paul in 2008-09.
The Pelicans set or tied five single game team records and another six individual ones.
It was a wild, amazing ride. Though I usually detest such things, it was incredible to see the Smoothie King Center bathed in sea of red, and reverberating with the sound of 18,000 fans on their feet.
It’s a run I won’t forget. It was one that took us from wondering whether this organization would be intact by season’s end to already waiting for offseason news regarding what pieces may be added, or subtracted, to help the Pelicans take the next step towards a championship.
“We can take a lot of positive things from the season,” said Davis (34 points, 19 rebounds). “Of course one of our main guys went out and everybody doubted us. Everybody counted us out and we were able to keep fighting, keep pushing as a unit and able to come this far. There’s no moral victories but it’s a lot that we can take from the season.”
Whatever the Pelicans take away, it may not match how much they gave their fans this season. Savor that for a moment, because it was really good.
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…