The Pelicans went back to their early days in New Orleans Wednesday night and channeled their inner Ric Flair.
Because as the Nature Boy loved to say, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.”
And that they did, defeating the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, 108-103, in a sold-out and raucous Smoothie King Center Wednesday to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth since the team was nicknamed the Hornets, the building was called the New Orleans and the NBA was running things in lieu of an owner.
To be sure, the Pels are the bottom in the Western Conference, which means a first-round date against Golden State, the league’s best team. Only three times since the opening round went to best-of-seven in 2003 has No. 8 beaten No. 1.
But it’s certainly better than the alternative – which is packing your gear after coming so close, especially considering the painful rebuilding process of the previous three seasons that saw the team finish a collective 66 games under .500.
Also, consider the fact that the Pelicans earned their playoff berth in what’s has been called the strongest division in history. Consider that it took only 38 victories to make it in the East, seven less games the Pelicans won.
And with Anthony Davis plus a core of young, veteran talent which makes up the sixth-youngest roster in the league, the future of the franchise seems bright.
“It couldn’t be better,” ESPN radio analyst P.J. Carlesimo said. “The thing I hear going all around the country is that this team has arrived.
“They made a big step to prove that tonight.”