Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.
That’s pretty much been the story for the New Orleans Pelicans after the first three games of their first round playoff series, all losses that have them facing an almost impossible to overcome 3-0 hole.
Game 1: They perhaps could have won if they didn’t get off to such a slow start.
Game 2: They would have won if they would have played as well down the stretch as they did at the start.
Game 3: They should have won, except they let what looked like an insurmountable 20-point fourth quarter lead slip away, a collapse so big that it still had Golden State center Andrew Bogut a bit confused when he woke up Friday morning.
“I woke up (Friday) morning thinking it was 2-1,” Bogut said. “I had to go check NBA.com to make sure we really won. It’s a head scratcher for us to have won that game.”
The Pelicans were still a bit dazed as well on Friday.
Now they are in the tough position of dusting themselves off from Thursday’s stunning loss and trying to regroup and avoid getting swept in Game 4 on Saturday at the Smoothie King Center.
A win and the Pelicans can pack their bags to head back to Oakland for Game 5.
A loss and they pack their bags for the season.
“For us to try to bounce back, it’s a tough task, but we’re still fighting and we’re not giving up,” said guard Eric Gordon. “It’s tough to have a team down by 20 and let them come back.”
The Pelicans practiced on Friday morning to prepare for Saturday’s do-or-die game, but the sting from Thursday night still lingered.
“It was a tough loss, probably one of the toughest losses of my career,” said guard Tyreke Evans. “You just have to put it past you. We know we can beat that team.”
The Pelicans, the No. 8 seed, have done everything but that during this series against the NBA’s best team. They have outplayed the Warriors through long stretches during the playoffs, but never enough to get a win.
Thursday, of course, was their best opportunity, but the Pelicans were outscored 39-19 in the final quarter and Golden State pulled down 10 offensive rebounds.
It’s why Pelicans coach Monty Williams didn’t sleep much Thursday night.
“I slept for an hour, then woke up and thought about it for an hour,” said Williams. “Went back to sleep. Woke up and thought about it some more. You don’t get a lot of sleep on a night like that.”
Williams admitted that Friday’s practice was a bit different with Thursday’s heartbreak still in the back of their minds.
“It was a tough day, there is no way around it,” Williams said. “Guys have that numb feeling from last night. But we also talked about the resiliency all season to bounce back from tough losses. We’ve shown that we can bounce back. I reminded the guys that’s what we have to do. No team has gotten to where they wanted to go without going through something tough.”
Williams didn’t point to one specific play from Thursday’s loss, highlighted by Stephen Curry’s game-tying 3-pointer that forced overtime and all but wrapped up the series.
“It never comes down to one play,” Williams said. “It’s a bunch of them. It wasn’t one thing. It was just a lot of ‘one things’ that ended up biting us. (Curry) made the shot of his career and it’s unfortunate that we were on the other end of it.”
Curry, who finished with 40 points Thursday, would like nothing more than to wrap the series up Saturday.
“That’s why Game 3 was so big for us,” Curry said. “We have the opportunity to close it in four. If we are able to do that, we have a good chunk of time (to rest) before the second round starts. We got the momentum back on our side and it’s a huge opportunity for us to get a sweep and finish off the job.”
No team in NBA history has ever come back to win a series after trailing 3-0. Only three teams that trailed 3-0 have pushed a series to a Game 7. The Pelicans, for now, just want to get it to a Game 5.
“We just have to come out with a fight,” said Evans. “We can’t just let them have the game just because we’re down 3-0. I don’t want to get swept so we are going to go in with the intention to win the game.”