OK, we’ve heard it all already.
If Kevin Durant had managed to stay healthy, there’s no way the Pelicans are in the playoffs.
And even if they are in, every historical, statistical and for all we know astrological indicator is not only against them winning their opening-round series against Golden State, but points toward a sweep by the Warriors, or at best for the Pels, it going five games.
Blah, blah, blah.
The locals are going into their first postseason series since 2011 — an accomplishment achieved no thanks to an extensive injury list of their own they managed to overcome to improve by 11 victories from a year ago.
In other words, they’re playing with house money.
For the Pels, that should mean coming in loose with nothing to lose and everything to gain, including the experience which will serve this team on the rise well in the years to come.
And they don’t have the specter of Dell Demps and Monty Williams being fired for coming up one game short of an arbitrary standard — making the playoffs in a year of unprecedented strength in the Western Division — hanging over them.
It’s hard to imagine Anthony Davis, who is eligible for an exclusive contract extension after this season, being happy that the coach who has had so much to do with his professional and personal development was axed along with the architect of a team which was built around him.
You don’t unnecssarily alienate LeBron James’ successor as the best in the game when you can have him in your uniform during his prime years.
But that’s a story to be sorted out at another time.
What’s important on this day is that the Pelicans have a window of opportunity — as narrow as it may seem — to shock the basketball world.
“It’s great for the Pelicans to get in,” TNT analyst Kenny Smith said. “The nation will get to see Anthony Davis in the playoffs for the first time. But they don’t have enough firepower to win this one. They’re a good team, but they haven’t been consistent enough to beat the most-consistent team in the league.”
He’s probably right.
The Pelicans, for all of their share of outstanding efforts this season — including the victory against San Antonio that got them into the playoffs — also threw in more than their share of clunkers against bad teams.
Perhaps it’s fortunate for the Pelicans that Golden State is not in that latter category.
The Warriors’ 67 victories are tied for the sixth-most of all time, and their point differential of 10.1 also ranks in among the best. They lead the league in a number of other categories as well.
They’ve got the likely league MVP in Stephen Curry, the most-successful rookie head coach in league history in Steve Kerr and have gone 39-2 in Oracle Arena.
Yes, only 11 days ago the Pelicans beat this juggernaut, 103-100. But while the Warriors didn’t really consider that game a “scrimmage” (Turns out that was a Pels’ ball boy passing along a joking remark by Andrew Bogut) they were certainly relaxed that day.
That victory, though, was part of a closing rush that saw the Pels go 8-3 over their final 11 games, just enough to take that tie-breaking playoff berth from Oklahoma City.
Playoff basketball, obviously, is different, and while there is a collective 168 games of playoff history among the Pelicans players, none of them came with any of them playing together.
Golden State’s playoff history isn’t much more extensive, though. The Warriors were bounced by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round last year and have only two series victories in the past 20 years.
So, that factor is a wash.
For the Pelicans to win, Davis is going to have to play at the MVP level he’s displayed all season (Only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and LeBron James have had better player efficiency ratings), Jrue Holiday’s going to have to help Tyreke Evans limit Curry, everybody else has to have peak efforts and Williams continues the coaching job he did down the stretch.
And even if the Pels go 0-4, they’ve still had a better season than Tom Benson’s other team did — and they were playing in the toughest division of the NBA, not the worst of the NFL, something TPTB out on 5800 Airline Hwy. should consider.
So enjoy the moment.
For this bunch, it shouldn’t be the last.