With a 113-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, the Pelicans clinched one of the eight seeds in the upcoming postseason; however, it’s going to come down to the final day of the regular season before we learn New Orleans precise fate. Pending a lot of outcomes over the next 48 hours, the Pelicans could finish as high as fourth in the standings — and clinch home court advantage in the first round, or as low as eighth and be tasked with traveling to Houston to play the formidable Rockets.
We’ll have plenty of time to contemplate all these possible scenarios in coming days, though, so let’s concentrate on the present first — and what a glorious present it is! After losing four straight games, New Orleans was on the verge of slipping outside of the playoff picture. However, the team quickly righted the ship, winning their next four matchups, including Monday night’s win against a surprisingly spry Clippers squad.
Before breaking down game specifics, I want to first give a shout out to the Clippers organization and Doc Rivers. After being eliminated this past Saturday, their squad could have very easily quit prematurely on the season, especially with nearly half a roster riddled with some type of injury. They didn’t, and moreover, forced Pelicans fans everywhere to go through a few heart-palpitating minutes.
That said, this matchup wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. Although Los Angeles hung tough throughout the first half — thanks to a super porous New Orleans defense handing out buckets in the paint like candy on Halloween, the Pelicans went on a 12-0 run right before halftime to field a double-digit lead at intermission. Then, New Orleans assumed further control in the third quarter. Over the span of these 15 minutes, the Pelicans exerted their dominance on both ends of the floor, outscoring the Clippers by a 46-22 margin.
Yes, it’s troubling that a 108-85 lead with 4:48 left in the game was whittled to 10 with thirty seconds remaining, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. The victory was never in doubt and that second unit isn’t going to be thrown into any upcoming fires together for meaningful minutes.
Anthony Davis, once again, was the star of the show. He finished with a game-high 28 points and also added six rebounds, five blocks and two steals. If he wasn’t slamming home a monstrous dunk on one end, he was emphatically swatting away a Clipper attempt on the other.
In typical fashion, AD didn’t have to go it alone. Nikola Mirotic was ablaze for the fourth time in five games, posting a line of 24 points, 16 rebounds — tying his career-high he set days ago, four three-pointers and two steals. E’Twaun Moore tallied 19 points, five rebounds and three assists, and Ian Clark, in a return to the rotation after suffering an ankle sprain against the Grizzlies, scored 13 points, dropped six dimes and nabbed four rebounds. Although he only scored eight points, Jrue Holiday had just seven shot attempts and was really good elsewhere: 11 assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks. #AllNBADefensiveTeam please!
No one will consider the win over the Clippers as the Pelicans best win of the season, not by a long shot, but let’s call it mission accomplished. On a night where we witnessed the Timberwolves and Spurs have a lot more trouble with the Grizzlies and Kings respectively, New Orleans victory was never in serious jeopardy for any prolonged period of time.
Before it’s appropriate to go streaking through the French Quarter though, realize one very important game remains before the start of the playoffs: Wednesday’s contest against the dreaded San Antonio Spurs.
POR 48-33 UTH— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) April 10, 2018
UTH 47-33, GSW POR
NOP 47-34 SAS
SAS 47-34 NOP
OKC 47-34 MEM
MIN 46-35 DEN
DEN 46-35 MIN#NBA
If the Pelicans win, they’re guaranteed of no worse than a fifth seed. If they lose, they’re apt to drop all the way to eighth — barring the Grizzlies surprising the Thunder.
Monday’s playoff-clinching win over the Clippers was great, but following it up with a victory on Wednesday would make things all the more sweeter. We’ve experienced what it’s like to face a top seed in the playoffs and learned a valuable lesson — it’s best to avoid such a scenario!