The fans will be on the Pelicans’ side.
History won’t be.
The Pelicans are in a difficult-to-escape 2-0 hole as they prepare to host Golden State in Game 3 at 8:30 p.m. Thursday
It’s the first playoff game in the city since 2011, back when the Pelicans were the Hornets and the Smoothie King Center was New Orleans Arena.
The Pelicans lost the first two games of the series at raucous Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, but that hasn’t done anything to shake the team’s confidence heading into what is essentially a must-win Game 3.
“They won two games, so we feel we can win two games,” guard Tyreke Evans said.
Teams that take a 2-0 lead have won 94 percent of the time, and only 16 teams have rallied from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
Only once has a No. 8 seed come from behind to beat a No. 1 seed after losing the first two games. That was back in 1994 — Anthony Davis was a year old at the time — when Dikembe Mutombo and Denver stunned Seattle in a best-of-five series.
But Pelicans coach Monty Williams isn’t concerned about history.
“I don’t think our guys have paid much attention to that,” he said. “We have just focused on the next game. That’s something that has worked for us all season long. Our focus is on Game 3. We know if we get that game, the mindset changes again. We feel like we play well on our home floor. We played well (at Golden State), but offensively we didn’t have the efficiency that we have had all season, and that’s a credit to them.”
It will be the first playoff game in New Orleans since the Lakers finished off Chris Paul and the Hornets in Game 6 of the first round in 2011.
While the arena hasn’t hosted a playoff game since then, it did have perhaps the next best thing: a playoff-like atmosphere last week when the Pelicans defeated San Antonio in the win-or-go-home regular-season finale.
“Our last month and a half has been a playoff atmosphere for us, just trying to get in,” Williams said. “I think we’re used to it in a way. ... Everything is amped up a little but more at home, so we hope that momentum carries over.”
The biggest task for Williams is getting his team to play consistently for the entire 48 minutes. The Pelicans got off to a horrendous start in Game 1 before rallying in the fourth quarter in the 106-99 loss. Game 2 was just the opposite, with the Pelicans getting off to a blazing start before fizzling down the stretch of a 97-87 loss.
“We have played well with them for three quarters of both games,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “There have been little stretches where we haven’t played as well as we want to. There are things we are tightening up in practice (Wednesday) and we will be better at (Thursday).”
It should help that Jrue Holiday could return after sitting out Game 2, suffering from the lower right leg stress reaction that has hampered his season.
“Jrue is still day-to-day,” Williams said after a Wednesday morning practice. “He was so sore the other day that it didn’t make sense to play him. We are just going to list him as day-to-day. That’s in my mind, as a coach. That’s not the official listing. But for me, he’s day-to-day.”
The Pelicans went 28-13 at home this season. They are on a five-game home winning streak, all of those victories coming during a critical stretch when they were trying to outlast Oklahoma City and Phoenix for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr, whose team had the best record in the NBA this season, said he’s looking forward to seeing his team play its first road playoff game.
“Our guys like the challenge of being on the road, feeling the opposing crowd,” he said. “There is a different energy. It’s an us-against-the-world type thing. I know (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) do, in particular. Winning on the road is really the most fun thing to do as a player in the NBA.”
The Pelicans anticipate the challenge as well.
Davis, who is averaging 30.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the series’ first two games, arrived back in New Orleans feeling confident in the Pelicans’ chances. That confidence was boosted when the Pelicans beat Golden State 103-100 late in the regular season at the Smoothie King Center.
“We’ve done it before, and we are confident in our players and our coaches and our game plans and our schemes that we can beat any team,” Davis said. “We’re not a team that says, ‘Oh, we can’t beat this team’ and just sit back and let them sweep us.
“We are going to fight to the end. We are going to go fight all 48 minutes and try to come out with a win.”