Throw predictability, numbers, analysis, all out the window.
The New Orleans Pelicans have ridden the most improbable path, which no one outside of Airline Highway could have seen it all coming. And yet, here they are, a sixth seed with a decisive 2-0 lead over the reeling Portland Trailblazers.
22 ESPN panelists chose the third-seeded Blazers. Not only were the Pelicans supposed to lose this series, they were lucky to even get here. Speaking of which...
Simple recap of how the Pelicans got here
- The Pelicans front office led by Dell Demps and Head Coach Alvin Gentry received the slightest of favor from Mickey Loomis and the rest of Airline Drive to continue on in the 2017/18 season last May.
- Local and national basketball fans were appalled when news broke of an additional $25 million of likely and unlikely incentives in Jrue Holiday’s contract, handicapping the Pelicans’ spending measures to the tune of five years, $150 million this past July.
- The Pelicans were so hard pressed against the dead cap, they took flyers on journeyman and problem child Rajon Rondo (fresh off his time in Dallas, Sacramento, and his instagram wars in Chicago), old D-man Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson — who was cut in favor of Richard Jefferson, Ian Clark, and prodigal son, Darius Miller.
- The Pelicans would continue their injury-riddled ways, losing Boogie in his contract year.
- Play five games in six nights — handling that well, but dropping winnable games earlier to a slew of bad teams: Sacramento (twice), Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, and New York.
Back to the Game 2
Portland came out tight early in the first, with miscues, turnovers and miscommunications, en route to an early 9-2 Pelicans’ advantage and a Terry Stotts timeout.
However, the Blazers would find their footing behind 11 first half offensive rebounds, an aggressive C.J. McCollum and Jusurf Nurkic, and a high screen and roll game that led to 34 points in the paint in the first half alone.
Jrue Holiday kept the Pels afloat with 12 first quarter points, but the Pelicans struggled badly early in the second with a lineup of Rondo, Clark, Miller, Hill and Diallo. A 9-2 free throw advantage kept the Pelicans within five going into halftime and that’s when everything changed.
A 19-4 run and a 33-19 third quarter advantage silenced the hopefuly Moda Center crowd. Anthony Davis put in 11 of his points, and Jrue Holiday clamped down on the Blazers’ backcourt, until being called for his fourth foul. With Jrue on the bench, the Blazers would close to 81-78 before back-to-back threes closed the third and gave the Pels an 87-78 advantage.
With Nurkic and Evan Turner on the bench, the Blazers found new life in the fourth behind Moe Harkless, fresh off his arthroscopic knee surgery who put up +11 in 27 minutes, included stellar defense on AD, who was held without a field goal in the fourth.
Following a Harkless three-pointer at the 3:20 mark, the Blazers briefly took a 100-99 lead, before Mirotic, Rondo and Holiday took over with nine successive points.
The highlights included a Mirotic rainbox, a Holiday pull up three-point shot, and an insane scrum off of E’Twaun Moore’s two free throw misses that resulted in a corner three for Rajon Rondo.
Join Oleh Kosel, David Fisher and Kevin Barrios as we recount everything, pass out kudos, and try to pick our jaws up off the floor!