Pelicans Punch Playoff Ticket, Beat Spurs To Clinch It
With a trip to the playoffs on the line, the New Orleans Pelicans embraced the moment in front of a raucous sell out home crowd, defeating the defending champion San Antonio Spurs 108-103.
Superstar Anthony Davis earned his 42nd double-double of the season, scoring 31 points, pulling down 13 boards, blocking 3 shots, dishing out 2 assists and swiping 2 steals.
"We just tried to go out there and play for us. We knew what was at stake," explained Davis. "It wasn't as much about the Spurs. It was just having that pride and sense of urgency we talked about all year."
New Orleans jumped out to a 15 point first quarter lead, and 23 point first half lead behind red hot shooting, impressive transition basketball, and solid defense.
"We knew we had to get this game. It started with our first unit. We came in and did what we had to do to get that early lead and our second unit came in and extended it," explained Davis. "That was a sign we were locked in. More so defensively than offensively. Shots were falling but it was more so because of defense."
As they've done many time in their illustrious history, the Spurs made a run, cutting the Pelicans lead to 4 in the 4th quarter, but with the game hanging in the balance, Davis came through.
"I like the fact that we went to A.D. down the stretch," said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. "He came through on both ends of the floor."
In the final minutes of play, Davis sunk two jumpers, two free throws, blocked two shots and grabbed two boards.
Tyreke Evans (pictured) finished with 19 points and 11 assists, while Eric Gordon scored 14 for New Orleans.
Davis, Evans and Gordon will all participate in their first playoff series this Saturday, when the 8 seeded Pelicans battle the 1 seed Golden State Warriors. Tip-off in Oakland is set for 2:30. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
Quincy Pondexter will play in the postseason for the 5th time in 5 NBA seasons. His rookie year, he played for the New Orleans Hornets and was a member of the last New Orleans team to make the postseason. After being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies the following season, he was traded back to New Orleans midseason this year, becoming an integral part of the Pelicans playoff push.
"It's been one hell of a ride this year and it's not over with," said Pondexter. "I'm really excited to see the finished product of this season."
Jrue Holiday (11 points) and Ryan Anderson (5 points) both shined off the bench, as did playoff veteran Norris Cole (13 points). While Cole came over in a midseason trade, Holiday and Anderson both missed chunks of time this year with injuries. They're willingness to rehab hard and get back on the floor wasn't lost on their teammate.
"Those guys fought to come back (Jrue and Ryan). When you have injuries like that, some guys don't want to rush and leave their teammates out to dry," explained Pondexter. "Having those guys come back gave us a little bit of new life."
While the team embraced each other after the win, the crowd of 18,214 continued to cheer on their Pelicans, soaking up every second of one of the biggest wins in franchise history.
"I'm glad that we had a packed house. Our fans gave us great energy tonight," said Williams. "I can't thank God enough for the opportunity to coach and be in moments like this."
New Orleans now gets to face the Warriors (66-15), owners of the best record in the NBA. Golden State won 3 of the 4 matchups this season.
"Golden State is a tough team. They probably have the two best shooters in the league with Klay (Thompson) and Steph (Curry)," said Davis of his next opponent. "We think we match up well against them. We've beat them before here (at home) and we know what they're gonna do. They know what we're gonna do. It's all about a game of heart now."
The series schedule is as follows: Game 1 is Saturday at Oracle Area at Golden State at 2:30 p.m.; Game 2 is Monday at Golden State at 9:30, Game 3 is Thursday, April 23 at 8:30 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Game 4 is Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center, Game 5 (if necessary) is at Golden State on Tuesday, April 28, time TBA, Game 6 (if necessary) is Friday, May 1 at the Smoothie King Center time TBA, Game 7 (if necessary) is Sunday, May 3 at Golden State time TBA.