Finally, the Pelicans couldn’t win a game when they had to.
In a season that featured numerous improbable recoveries from the brink of Lottery Land, the Pels didn’t possess the firepower to overcome a peak performance by the NBA’s best team Saturday.
Golden State 109, New Orleans 98.
The last team to get into the playoffs was the first one out — swept for the first time in the seven postseason appearances in the franchise’s 13 years in the Crescent City.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise.
It would have taken an extraordinary effort — one that few teams could muster — to overcome the emotional impact of Thursday’s 123-119 overtime heart-crusher.
But White Out Night in the Smoothie King Center didn’t mean it was Surrender Night.
Anthony Davis had 36 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots to give him averages of 31.5, 11.0 and 3.0 for the series — all above his season norms — and Eric Gordon recovered from a woeful Game 3 performance with 29 points, his second-most of the season.
Most impressively, after losing the first three quarters by seven, six and eight points and trailing by as many as 24, the Pels outscored the visitors by 10 in the fourth quarter. Twice they got the deficit to seven in the final two minutes to make it a little more interesting.
But the Pels had the misfortune of going against a superior team on a night when it was determined to close out the series.
What was the home team up against Saturday?
The Pels shot 50 percent in the first half against the league leader in field goal percentage defense — and still trailed by 13, the final dagger coming from a Stephen Curry arcing 3-pointer over the best efforts of the 7-inches-taller Ryan Anderson.
They got it to nine early the third quarter, only to have Curry convert a block of an Omer Asik layup attempt (Note to Monty Williams: Never, never, never intentionally put the ball in the hands of that man again) into an over-the-head flip to Harrison Barnes.
And when Donte Cunningham’s putback dunk with 1:16 left made it 106-98, Klay Thompson’s 3-pointer, the last of 13 treys for the Warriors, put the lead back to 10.
Whatta you gonna do?
Well, if you’re the Pelicans, you celebrate the progress the franchise made this season:
-- Going from 34 victories in 2014 to 45 despite injuries that came close to last year’s debilitating total.
-- The playoff-clinching 108-103 victory against defending champion San Antonio in the final regular-season game, when the Spurs were playing for seeding.
-- The rise of Davis into becoming one of the league’s premier players. As Williams said, not only is he a rare talent, but at 22 he displays leadership seldom seen as such a young age.
If the Pels can keep him, Davis should become the preeminent athlete in the city’s sports history.
-- The midseason moves to obtain Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole that provided the depth to overcome injuries to other front-line players.
-- Making the playoffs for the first time in four years with the pressure of having little margin for error from midseason on when the team fell to 20-21.
Contrast that to Tom Benson’s other team, which repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion in a season that started with them picked by many to win it all.
Nobody was saying that about the Pelicans going into this season. They weren’t even considered a playoff team, but they defied the odds to get there.
When the Pels lost to Houston to fall 3½ games behind Oklahoma City for eighth place in the West with 11 games remaining, we wrote, “It was fun while it lasted.”
Well, it lasted a little longer than we or just about anybody else though at that point.
And it was fun.