The Smoothie King Center made its pitch Thursday night.
As “Boogie!" chants rained down, the New Orleans Pelicans All-Star DeMarcus Cousins had captivated a playoff arena for the first time in his career.
At the turn of the 2018 NBA offseason, once the Pelicans’ postseason run is over, the other half of the Pelicans’ feared twosome with Anthony Davis, Cousins, will become an unrestricted free agent just months after a torn Achilles ended his MVP-caliber season in January.
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Cousins rejoined the Pelicans for Thursday’s 119-102 Game 3 win against the Portland Trail Blazers to seize a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Pelicans big man was engaged with applause and support throughout Thursday’s game, his first time sitting on New Orleans’ bench during a home game since the injury.
“Boogie! Boogie! Boogie!”
“Oh, I think it was amazing,” Davis said. “He was over there doing like a little dance. He enjoyed it. He loves being here. I think him being here gave him a little taste of, like Jrue (Holiday) said, what the future can hold for our team and for this franchise. He enjoyed it. Everybody was glad he was here, and we’ll see him again Saturday.”
“I think that was good,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “I think he likes that. He appreciates that.”
Cousins, who paused his rehab process in Los Angeles and Las Vegas to visit New Orleans, rejoined the Pelicans for a morning shoot-around Thursday before Game 3 in New Orleans, chatting with fellow teammates and the coaching staff.
Since Cousins was traded to New Orleans 14 months ago, he has played in 65 games as a Pelican — all before missing out of what would have been his first playoff appearance.
The short answer is never ... at least not in the NBA.
“It’s awesome,” Holiday said. “(He can) see what the future is like for him. To be able to come in here and have this atmosphere, especially at home, a playoff atmosphere, it’s great.”
“He’s a part of this,” Gentry added after the win. “I tell everyone, he’s been a part of this. It’s good having him around. I think our guys like having him around here. You know, I feel really bad for him because he so much wanted to make the playoffs.
"He was playing at a level that was going to help us get there. It’s unfortunate that he’s not involved in these games, but we love having him here. We’re glad that he’s here and we hope he travels with us for the remainder of the playoffs.”
No. 6 New Orleans will shoot for the franchise’s first series sweep against No. 3 Portland at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Smoothie King Center. ... Thursday’s win was New Orleans' first home playoff win since April 24, 2011. ... No NBA team has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the playoff series. ... New Orleans’ three-game lead is the franchise’s first of such kind in team history. ... Preparation for Game 4 began Friday morning, nearly 12 hours after Game 3 concluded. Sections of the Smoothie King Center were coated once again in red giveaway T-shirts, similar to Thursday’s "Do It Bigger!" promotion. ... Portland small forwards Evan Turner (right toe), who missed Game 3, and Maurice Harkless (left knee), who missed Game 1, are questionable for Game 4. Turner's absence Thursday elevated Harkless into the Blazers' Game 3 starting lineup.