If you’ve patiently been waiting for that defining victory since DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season, your wait is over. The New Orleans Pelicans shocked the Golden State Warriors by a score of 126-120 on Saturday evening, ending a painstakingly long 14-game losing streak to the current NBA champions.
Despite having nothing to gain or lose in the standings — Golden State is locked into the second seed in the Western Conference, the Warriors were unusually motivated to snare the win against the Pelicans. The reasoning was simple: they had suffered an embarrassing 126-106 home loss to the Indiana Pacers just 48 hours earlier and Head Coach Steve Kerr lambasted them publicly for it. So, of course, New Orleans was destined to take one of Golden State’s best shots.
Incredibly, it wasn’t enough.
Kevin Durant finished with a game-high of 41 points on 26 shots, the Warriors knocked down 45% of their three-pointers, and Quinn Cook had a jaw-dropping performance of 21 points and five threes against his former team, yet the Pelicans were declared the winner after 48 minutes of exhilarating basketball.
To single out only one New Orleans player for his contributions would do a great disservice to the rest of the squad. They were all fantastic, especially each and every starter.
- Anthony Davis was in MVP form: 34 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals. He absolutely dominated on the inside, scoring 22 points in the paint and drawing seven fouls, which led to 10 free throw attempts.
- Imagine that, Jrue Holiday made his presence felt on both ends of the floor again. Offensively, he totaled 25 points (13 of which came in the final quarter) and six assists, and defensively, he came up with five rebounds and four steals, including a key strip of Kevin Durant with 83 seconds remaining.
- After a lengthy shooting slump, Nikola Mirotic was stellar for a third consecutive game, finishing with 28 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and six three-pointers. Despite turning an ankle just before halftime, Mirotic refused to leave the game. His continued excellence is beginning to cement a new Big Three in New Orleans.
- E’Twaun Moore was perfect. No seriously, he failed to miss a single shot, knocking down all seven attempts for 15 points. He also threw in seven assists for good measure.
- Rajon Rondo might have been the biggest difference maker: 12 points, 17 assists, four rebounds and a team-best +21 plus/minus. He set the tone early with his scoring, draining a couple of threes in the opening quarter, and then finished the game creating made baskets for everyone else. In the final frame, he tallied eight beautiful assists which were directly responsible for New Orleans 38-point fourth quarter explosion.
With Saturday’s victory, New Orleans now only needs to win just one of their two remaining games on the schedule to secure a trip to the playoffs because 47 wins is the line of demarcation. With the Timberwolves and Nuggets facing each other once more, one of those two teams are going to fail to reach the 47-win threshold.
Had the Pelicans dropped the game to the Warriors, they would have fallen from fifth all the way down to ninth as both the Timberwolves and Nuggets own the important tiebreakers. That path would have likely required for New Orleans to win their last two games against the Clippers and Spurs. Fortunately, we don’t have to contemplate that ominous future any longer.
Head Coach Alvin Gentry has waited nearly three long years, but he’s probably got that landmark win in the Crescent City. For those who have been in town longer like AD, the Pelicans win over the Warriors might go down as the most memorable in franchise history since New Orleans upset the San Antonio Spurs to clinch a playoff spot on the final day of the 2014-15 regular season.
If New Orleans does indeed wind up in the 2018 playoffs and makes some noise once there, don’t be surprised if many point to the Pelicans eightieth game of the season, a stunning 126-120 winning effort against so many odds.