This is it.
Tonight determines if the Pelicans have a tomorrow. The defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs are coming into the Smoothing King Center winners of 11 straight and playing their best basketball of the season; even worse for the Pelicans is that the champs still have something to play for so you wouldn't expect Gregg Popovich to rest his guys on the last night of the NBA's regular season, or as the Spurs call it: a six month long formality.
You know the story heading into this game: the Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder have the same exact record with one game left to play. The Thunder play Kevin Garnett's Timberwolves which would be good news for New Orleans if this were 2003. But my calendar informs me that this is 2015, Garnett is a mummy that's only playing because he's waiting for a sarcophagus that's height appropriate (people were a lot shorter back then you see) and if the team's losses were an age, 65, they'd be closing in on getting Social Security benefits.
The Pelicans, however, get the Spurs and it wouldn't matter if this were 2003 or not; this is a tall task no matter what year of the Duncan era it is. Making the task even taller for New Orleans is that the Spurs need a win to have homecourt in the first round of this year's playoffs.
So on the surface, it seems like fate is against the Pelicans. If the NBA handed out end-of-the-year gifts to teams, they're giving New Orleans a walking buzz saw that's still mad about the God awful How I Met Your Mother series finale, and the Thunder get a seven story tall cupcake that tastes like victory with unbridled hope flavored icing.
On this Tax Day it is incredibly apropos that the Pelicans' and Thunder's race for the final playoff spot in the West will be determined by two of life's other certainties: the Spurs being good and the Timberwolves being...not.
But you know what I say to the Spurs going into this do or die game?
What's so scary about the Spurs? They're the defending champions? They're winners of 11 straight games? So what, any bully seems bigger than what he really is until you stand up to him. Scut Farcus didn't look all that tough after Ralph beat his ass after school. There's no reason for the Pelicans to be intimidated, or nervous in any other way, by the Spurs, they're just another team. Another faceless opponent that is standing in their way of something they want; what's more is that New Orleans is one inadvertent Omer Asik tip in from being up 3-0 on San Antonio this season.
New Orleans has shown they can play with, and beat, the best teams the NBA has to offer at home. The Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, and yes even the Spurs have all come into The Blender and walked away defeated. With the Pelicans playing in their biggest home game since Game Seven of the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals, expect The Smoothie King Center to be absolutely unhinged.
If I may state the obvious #HOTSPORTZTAEK, tonight is the first "legacy game" in the young career of Anthony Davis. Porous or stellar, we're going to remember the night he puts up for a very long time. Hopefully he has a LeBron James Game 6 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals-esque performance in him. Davis can use tonight to truly tell the world "yes I am the next best player. LeBron's just keeping my seat warm."
Tonight's not going to be easy. I know it, you know it and the team, while they won't publically admit it, knows it. Here's the thing though: nothing about the playoffs is easy and if the Pelicans are lucky enough to earn a tomorrow, the road only gets more difficult. You want in? Rise to the challenge and protect homecourt. Prove it. Prove you're one of the eight best teams in the West; that you'd look at all the "restructure the playoff format" talk with the utmost indifference. "What do we care, we'd make it either way."
If the New Orleans Pelicans want to finally earn they're playoff spot, it's going to take a special kind of effort. I'll let The U explain.
*NSFW Language out the wazoo