We should have never even been there. Months of planning, and anticipating how it'd come together, were lost in the tumultuous days where it didn't seem like it'd even be worth trying. When you look too far ahead at a goal, human nature tells you it'll work out, but history says otherwise. However, on this night -- this tornado/hail/straight lined winds/torrential downpour of a night -- we made it. I was able to attend a game that my cousin and I had been planning (and re-planning) all season long.
And there was so much RED.
Most notably in the literal sense, but everyone I passed had the same look on their face pre-game. You know it if you saw it: optimistically doubtful, based in a "rouge" of apprehension. I grabbed a beer to ease the tension, then headed to my seats in Section 301. Eavesdropping on my section-neighbors, you'd have thought this game was simply a big "THAT'S ALL FOLKS" to a season that was continuing on the upward trajectory in the W-L column since 2012.
The Spurs soon made their way to the court, whilst the arena filled with the Star Wars "Imperial March", a most fitting sonata. Not long after, the Pelicans entered the court to a decent fanfare, but there was only one problem. 15 minutes before tip-off, the arena only appeared to be 40% full. Was everyone just not in their seats? Was the weather causing traffic delays? Was there really no faith, and thus no turnout? Luckily the masses began to funnel in, and the most impressive display of fandom would ensue soon thereafter. At least not until Jrue Holiday to the crowd to "I don't know, turn up! Sh**..!"
Then the unspeakable began. After a slow first few minutes in which both teams were trading baskets, Danny Green picked up two quick fouls in the first six minutes, and the Birds seemingly couldn't miss! The first quarter ended with the Pelicans holding a 15 point lead, after a prayer tossed up by Holiday as time expired found bottom. Over the defending NBA champions on a hot streak as of late. In a do-or-die game. With OKC leading by umpteen over Minnesota.
The Norris Cole Cannon fired off in the 2nd quarter, and no one was willing (or able) to get in his way. Being that Cole is a crowd favorite, an energy type of player, with veteran playoff experience beyond his 26 year age, the crowd went aflame with intensity and a constant raucous white noise propelled the second unit to keep up the pace and maintain the already unlikely lead.
Thankfully, the first half ended 63-47 with the Pels comfortably ahead, because the inevitable comeback push that we've seen so many times would see the Spurs win the 2nd half 56-45. At around the 7 minute mark remaining, Gregg Popovich instituted his "Hack-a-Asik" method to remove the defensive stalwart from the game, to open up the lane for Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw and cut the lead to within 3. But it was too late, Anthony Davis had eclipsed the 500 career blocks number, Tyreke Evans had willed his slumping team to fight, Eric Gordon found his stroke, and Monty Williams had taken down his mentor in the biggest game of his career to date.
And again there was eighth, that supposed improbable objective.
In all my years of live NBA game attendance, not once have I seen every fan stay until the final buzzer has sounded, but they did last night in Section 301. We did. That feeling of shared success the team felt after months...no years of hard work to achieve the playoff bound goal was very similar, i'd assume, to the emotions everyone in the Smoothie King Center were experiencing at that very moment: a collective victory high. For a few moments, the players, coaches, staff, fans, seating attendants, security guards, concession stand workers, season ticket sales hounds, and janitorial crew felt for the first time in 4 years the relief beget with success.
Now, the City of New Orleans needs to keep that train going. This can't be seen as the finish line, and "THAT'S NOT ALL FOLKS", because Saturday afternoon's alright for fightin'.