The surging New Orleans Pelicans entered Wednesday night with a simple but tough task: win on the final regular season game to make the playoffs. This was tough because nothing in the Western Conference is easy.
It wasn’t against a struggling team either, it was against the defending NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs, who have been on fire the last three months and came to play the Pelicans with an 11 game winning streak. For the Spurs, it was a chance to take the number two seed in the Western Conference, which would give them home court advantage in the first two series.
For New Orleans, it was a chance to make the playoffs and show the league that they’re a contender. The team came ready and the matchup delivered.
With 39.6 seconds left in the game, the Pelicans were hanging on to a seven point lead after slowing down a furious Spurs comeback. The team needed one last stop to achieve their goal and All-Star power forward Anthony Davis delivered.
Davis turned away Spurs big man Boris Diaw’s attempt at a layup that would have made it a two-possession game. That wasn’t the end, Davis smacked the ball off the backboard, kept it in play, and grabbed the rebound to punch in the ticket for the playoffs.
The last seconds of the match turned into a free throw contest and it ended with Davis on the line after a last gasp three-point attempt by Patty Mills.
At the line, the crowd showered him MVP chants and the player calmly made both. This gave the Pelicans a 108-103 win that clinched their first playoff berth since 2011. In that year, they still had star point guard Chris Paul commanding the team. Now it is Davis’s turn to shine in his first time in the playoffs.
Who Will They Face?
The Pelicans hard work and effort gave them the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Not only that, they sent the Oklahoma City Thunder packing. Westbrook and company needed the Spurs to win this one to make it into the playoffs. The Thunder had no problems against the Minnesota Timberwolves and easily blew them out 138-113 with another brilliant performance from Westbrook, who had to carry the team after reigning MVP Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were ruled out for the season with injuries.
The Pelicans will now face the top seeded Golden State Warriors in the first round and are clearly an underdog.
Anthony Davis was on his game tonight, the 22-year-old star scored 31 points on 12 for 26 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two assists. This one was very impressive because it was against the defending NBA champions, a team they could end up meeting again if they happen to upset the Warriors.
After the game, Davis credited his teammates for what they did in this matchup and also for what they have done for him throughout the NBA season.
“All these guys helped me through everything. When I was down, and now when I’m up, they’re right here by my side,” Davis said. “You can see Norris [Cole] calling my name. That’s what it’s all about — having fun, sharing it with your teammates. I just love these guys. We worked our tails off all year, the past three years I’ve been here, and it’s finally paid off.