I woke up Wednesday morning with a nervous excitement. The game against the Spurs that my wife and I would be attending that night was the exact reason I bought Pelicans season tickets. A game with so much at stake, so much on the line and I just knew the fans would bring it.
My nervous excitement turned into downright panic around 4:30 pm. You see, I live in Mandeville (a city on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain) and I take a commuter bus to work on the southshore and because our babysitter could not get to our house to watch our two kids until 5:15 pm (approximately the time I get back to the northshore) I rode the bus back to pick up my wife and put on my red pelicans shirt.
As the commuter bus approached the causeway, Mother Nature unleashed something fierce. Hail, rain and dark clouds were upon us. The causeway was shut down and we were stuck on the southshore. I could not get off the bus and wait somewhere for my wife to drive across the bridge because the bus was first in line to get on the causeway once it reopened.
I started texting my wife in a panic.
"If I miss this game because the causeway is shutdown, I will NEVER forgive Louisiana for this!"
Luckily, they opened the bridge and we got across about 15 minutes later than normal.
Being a fan of this franchise for so long, I really had not realized that I have never been to a home playoff game. Every year the team has made the playoffs, I have lived elsewhere. I was lucky enough to have been living in Fort Worth during the 2007-08 season in which the Hornets played the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. I did attend those games, but I have never been to a home playoff game.
Obviously, I will get the chance now, yet last night was as close to a game seven of a playoff series as I have seen. I just knew this game was going to be a battle and I was ready.
After Anthony Davis' steal and dunk, I was so pumped they threw me up on the big screen for a good 7-10 seconds, just going crazy. Funny thing, when you get put on the big screen you usually are not expecting it. I literally looked up and said to myself, "that looks a lot like me. Oh wait, that is me."
The crowd was just electric. My wife and I lived in Southern California for a while and went to many Clippers/Hornets/Pelicans games. The vibe was just always different there: the lights seemed brighter and the crowd seemed louder. There was an energy that the New Orleans crowd always seems to be missing.
Last night, the sea of red that was the Pelicans crowd made the Smoothie King Center brighter. The crowd was so loud, whistles blown could not be heard. It was a truly unbelievable experience.
The Minnesota-OKC score was shown periodically during the game and at one point, the Thunder were up 60-43 over the Timberwolves and the Pelicans, at that time, were beating the Spurs 61-40. Let that sink in for a second.
Right before half, the Pels flashed a stat up on the big screen that the Spurs were 0/4 from three up to that point. I turned to my wife and said, wow, the Spurs have not made one three yet! Ginobili and Mills proceeded to drill two threes within the next 30 seconds. So I promptly shut up.
On my way to the bathroom at halftime, a Pels fan about my age was in front of me and just talking all sorts of trash to every Spurs fan we crossed.
"What’s up 6 seed?"
"You drove a long way to see your team get the 6 seed!"
I mean, he must have said this to 10 or 15 Spurs fans. I told him that this game was not over yet and the Spurs are the Spurs for a reason. They will make this game interesting at some point.
Boy did they!
The Spurs cut the lead to 5 but Tyreke and EG made consecutive layups to stretch the lead back to 9.
Then, the Hack-a-Asik started. I would feel bad for Asik if he wasn’t making 15 million this year because it always seems like when he turns the ball over, gets a dunk blocked or misses a free throw, the groans from the fans are just a little louder than usual.
Finally, Monty removed Asik from the game and subbed in Ryan Anderson. Pop made Monty choose between Asik and his amazing interior defense but horrible shooting, and Ryan Anderson with his offensive skills but supreme deficiencies on the defensive end.
As the game clock dwindled and there was around one minute left (maybe a little more), Monty called for Asik. Monty grabbed Asik by the arm and never let him go to the scorer’s table. I was watching this interaction very closely. The Spurs were making a mini-run and Monty wanted to try and go offense/defense with Asik and Anderson so badly. He knew, however, that if Asik was put into the game, it may be hard to get him out. So you know what Monty did? He sat Asik down and put Quincy Pondexter in the game. What an adjustment Monty made on the fly right there. Monty was on fire last night.
Is this the Monty we will get in the playoffs? One that seemed to always have two of AD, Tyreke, Jrue, EG, Asik or Ryno in the game at all times? No more all bench units?
Before Jrue and Ryno came back from injury, Monty had his rotations down to a science. There were rarely times where Monty would send out a lineup of all bench players. He would take EG or Tyreke out in the first quarter and leave AD in until about the 7-8 minute mark of the second quarter. When AD came out for a breather, he would put Tyreke or EG back in (maybe both) so there was usually an offensive threat on the court at all times.
When Anderson came back, it seemed as though Monty reverted back to resting all his starters at once and was willing to let Ryno try and carry the second unit of Cole, Dante, Ajinca and Douglas all by himself. But last night, Monty was having none of it.
For those of you who are completely blind to anything good that Monty has done, you can stop reading now because I am about to spill my guts about my feelings for Monty.
As the final buzzer sounded, all I could think of was how happy I was for Monty Williams. In my opinion, he is unfairly laughed at and mocked by the national and local media and hometown fans. Bill Simmons seems to have Monty in his crosshairs over the last few months and throws shade in his direction at least once a podcast.
If some of the local writers defended Monty the way they defend the Clickbait Mafia (my term for those in the local media that write and make outlandish opinions for the sake of clicks), maybe I wouldn’t feel as bad for Monty.
Then, the Woj-bomb came out stating that Monty and Demps jobs’ were on the line last night. Now you understand why Monty was so emotional last night. And I do not blame him.
He loves those guys. More importantly, they love him. I mean, love him. Do you have any idea how hard it is to have a full NBA squad these days care about the coach that much? Monty has improved every year. I am proud that he is the coach of my New Orleans Pelicans.
As my wife and I left the game and got into our car, she looked at me very calmly and said "That was fun."
Yes. It was fun.