Pelicans Make Playoffs After Four Year Absence
By John Ventola
The New Orleans Pelicans defeated defending NBA champion San Antonio Wednesday night 108-103 to capture the eighth and final seed in the league’s Western Conference playoffs. The victory, before a capacity crowd at the Smoothie King Center, gave the Pelicans the same record as Oklahoma City, New Orleans advancing because it won three of four games with the Thunder this season. The youthful Pels will start play against No. 1 seed Golden State in a best-of seven series beginning this weekend. The franchise, known previously as the Hornets, will be making an initial playoff appearance as the Pelicans.
It will mark the sixth playoff appearance of the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans, the last
coming in 2011 when the then Hornets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in an opening series. The Hornets/Pelicans won one playoff series, and had one division title in the previous thirteen seasons in New Orleans.
After the successful 2011 season, the departure of star guard Chris Paul led to an immediate team collapse, and put the franchise into full fledge rebuilding mode. Enter Anthony Davis as the No. 1 pick in the May, 2012 NBA draft. The 6-10 center from Kentucky has matured under the tutelage of Coach Monty Williams, and today ranks as one of the best young players in the league.
Davis paced the Pelicans with 31 points and 13 rebounds as the team earned the playoff spot by jumping out to an early lead and holding on against a veteran Spurs contingent that was trying to secure second place in the Western Conference. Nothing was given to the Pels, they earned the hard fought win with an aggressive brand of basketball that featured the all-around play of Davis.
By the Spurs loss (55-27), the Los Angeles Clippers finished with a better record (56-26) than the Spurs with their late Tuesday night victory at Phoenix. However, the upstart Houston Rockets (56-26) parlayed the Spurs lose, and their home victory over Utah
Wednesday, to take over the second spot, move the Clippers to third because of a head-to-head tiebreaker, and drop the Spurs all the way to sixth seed.
The Spurs would have taken second with a victory over New Orleans because of a tiebreaker advantage over the Clippers. Instead, the Rockets will enjoy the second spot that guarantees home-court advantage for every conference series except a possible matchup with league winner Golden State. The Clippers and the Spurs will face off in the first round of the playoffs.
Coach Greg Popovich’s veteran group surely tried hard for the win, and the home court playoff advantage it would have given them in defense of their crown. But Davis, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and their teammates would not be denied. The Pelicans have overcome injuries that sidelined Davis and Gordon for games, and forced guard Jrue Holiday to miss most of the season. Now all are back, and ready to try to buck the odds in facing the top seeded Warriors and stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Coach Monty Williams and General Manager Dell Demps have shown patience with
their young team, making key pickups to strengthen the squad when injuries hit during the past two seasons. With Davis leading the way, the Pelicans avoided any lengthy losing streaks, and seemed to develop a team chemistry down the stretch.
The Warriors had the best overall regular season NBA record this season, 67-15, seven games better than the Eastern Conference winning Atlanta Hawks.
A No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed sounds kind of hard to do, and it is. Long shot at best—-but still, a shot. The Denver Nuggets made their shot, and shots, to overcome No. 1 seed Seattle in 1994. After dropping the first two games in Seattle, the Nuggets relaxed, and bested the Super Sonics. Five years later, the No. 8 seeded New York Knicks defeated No. 1 Miami, Atlanta, and Indiana on their way to the NBA finals. Although they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals, the Knicks showed that at times special things can happen when a team gets hot.
Now, I can give an honest answer when queried by fans on my favorite Pelican player.
Anthony Davis! Before, with my warped sense of humor (and tip of the ole sports cap to history), I would answer Johnny Powers and Harold “Tookie” Gilbert. After receiving puzzled looks, I would go on to explain Powers was a power hitting outfielder, and Gilbert was a first baseman for baseball’s old New Orleans Pelicans back in the 1950s.
Powers hit some homers in old Pelican Stadium on Tulane Avenue, and once gave an autograph to this writer when I was a kid, and Gilbert played for the Pels in a bandbox setup in Tad Gormley Stadium after Pelican Stadium had been torn down. The Pelican baseball version was the first and only sports team to carry the name of the state bird of Louisiana. Until new owner Tom Benson made the name switch from Hornets to Pelicans to start the 2013-2014 season.
My dad, mom, and I drove to St. Louis to see Gilbert play for the New York Giants in 1953. He platooned at first base for the Giants, then playing in New York’s old Polo Grounds. My dad and Gilbert were childhood friends from the Lakeview area of New Orleans. The trip was the first of many bonding experiences with my dad that involved sports. I met Gilbert in St. Louis, and again when he played for the Pelicans in the late ‘50s.
New Orleans, which went through the heartbreak of losing the Jazz to Utah, has had an up-and-down fourteen years with the Hornets/Pelicans. But this young team, and the
potential for bigger and better things, should be enough to keep fan interest up, and make up for tough times created by Katrina (the team had to play games in Oklahoma City in 2005 and 2006), the failure of a number of high draft choices, and the departure of Paul.
The ’94 Nuggets and the ’99 Knicks showed it can be done. The stage is set. Let’s see what Pierre The Pelican and the Davis Gang can do to stop the fastest gun in the West (Curry).Thanks For Visiting JV Sport Shots .Com’s Website And Viewing Our Latest Blog(s) / Page(s). We Would Really Appreciate It If You Would Leave Us A Comment Or Remark Below. This Helps Us Provide Great Sports Content; You Would Like To See In Future Posts.
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