You’re not supposed to use “I” in sports related articles, but when it comes to instances of bullying, self-lived stories normally hit home the hardest.
There’s no way to really describe bullying other than: It sucks. Watching the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night should have made anyone who’s ever been pushed around proud.
I can remember growing up in the Crescent City and getting bullied with zero answers for it. I didn’t grasp the mental aspect at first, and I thought running away from it would solve my problems. That mindset followed me to Chicago, where I moved to during my adolescent years, and let’s just say things got worse.
I never physically got mangled, but mentally I was deeply scarred. Eventually, as I matured, I thought more and more about standing up for myself. Once I got so fed up, I did. I stood up to my bully, not caring if I’d win or lose the impending fight.
What was weird about this whole ordeal is, in defeat, I developed feeling of even greater inadequacy. I gave it my best shot and still didn’t win; however, I later acknowledged that taking the fight to the bully was better than giving up when challenged.
This new mindset, in fact, began transferring to other areas. No matter the opposition or challenge, I decided to be brave and let the chips fall where they may. Incidentally, years later and after going through various confrontations, I ran into my old, menacing bully — he immediately noticed I was no longer afraid. My new demeanor had gained his respect.
The tables had suddenly turned.
In my opinion, the New Orleans Pelicans just lived through a similar event. Prior to yesterday’s opening tip, nervousness, doubt and a slew of other negative thoughts had to be present. Coming into Saturday’s matchup, the Pelicans had lost 14 straight to the Warriors and 24 of 25 overall.
As @PrestonEllis mentioned on latest podcast, the Pelicans have lost 24 of last 25 matchups (including playoffs) to Warriors.— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) April 7, 2018
Know when that lone win came?
Back during final days of 2014-15 season -- When New Orleans was fighting tooth and nail to edge out OKC for the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/8tBkC20c11
There’s two different types of songs we’ve caught over the years in the matchups between New Orleans and Golden State. The Warriors either start slowly and the Pelicans race out a huge lead, only to disappoint down the stretch, or the Warriors start strongly and continuously keep the Pelicans in the rear view mirror.
To be fair, the Warriors have embarrassed almost every other NBA team at some point over the last three years. Yet, the Pelicans seemingly have always had to endure the most.
While the song titles have been different in their matchups, the chorus has stayed the same. “Let’s make our run, and they’ll fold.” We witnessed on three separate occasions earlier this season where Golden State made “a run” and the Pels eventually folded.
The difference in this year, though, was sometimes it took multiple runs from the Warriors — the Pelicans are a better team than in years past. New Orleans would respond but ultimately come up short, failing to knock out the star-studded defending champs. Their matchup from December is a perfect example of this.
I mentioned earlier how the first time I defended myself against my bully I ultimately still lost. But it was still progress — even though I didn’t immediate notice the fact. Sometimes a good effort alone isn’t enough to defeat that bully the first time around.
Whether it be size, appearance or something else, the advantage is what gives bullies their power. But once respect is gained, there’s foot in the door and a breakthrough win finally becomes possible.
Note what Draymond Green said a month ago.
Draymond Green with some high praise for what the Pelicans are doing without DeMarcus Cousins: pic.twitter.com/TPZWDkjyX0— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) March 8, 2018
Now listen to what Kevin Durant said yesterday.
Kevin Durant explains why the Pelicans offense has become so dangerous pic.twitter.com/1dWNlqF40M— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 8, 2018
Yet when the Warriors went on a classic 17-2 run late in the third quarter, things felt all too familiar. On the road, on the second night of a back-to-back, everyone expected the Pelicans to fall short once more. And playing in one of the toughtest enviroments in the NBA, who could blame them? Splash City was up by seven points and NOLA had only a quarter to try and get back the momentum.
Yet, they precisely did that!
With 1:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Warriors were leading the Pelicans 89-82. New Orleans OUTSCORED Golden State 44-31 over the last 14 minutes of the game. All this inside Oracle, in a game Durant, Thompson and Green saw 36+ minutes. #Speechless— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) April 8, 2018
The Pelicans went on to win by a score of 126-120 and now have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a won on Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Big Easy is a city that teaches about adversity. The people wrap their arms around the sports teams that best represent that narrative. They love a good bounce back story. The New Orleans Pelicans once again provided another example of their resiliency.
It’s unknown if they will face Golden State again anytime soon, but New Orleans will be able to trace back to Saturday’s work of art if needed. They now know they can beat Golden State when they play great basketball, so even if Stephen Curry were to return, the Pelicans have that elusive notch in their belt.
It’s amazing what confidence can do. When I overcame my bully, my motto was: “He’s just another man.” Even if it turns out to be just one night, it was fun to see the Pelicans look at the mythical Warriors as just another opponent — and beat them.