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The Pelicans made a valiant effort, but couldn’t hold off red-hot Golden State

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Jason Saul
/
WWNO

The 2014-15 New Orleans Pelicans extended season ended on Saturday night. Not with a bang, nor a whimper, but with a splash.

The Splash Brothers, that is. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — the Golden State Warriors’ backcourt beasts — combined for 64 points in a 109-98 drubbing of the Pelicans here in New Orleans, taking the first round playoff series in four games.

New Orleans, true to their performance all season, refused to give up, outscoring the visitors 31-21 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a Golden State squad that many have pegged to win it all this year.

“You see what that team is fully healthy, and they were really, really tough,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr during his postgame press conference. “We were fortunate to sweep.”

The Pelicans struggled with injuries and inconsistent play all season. Guard Jrue Holiday sat out a total of 42 games with a stress reaction to his lower right leg. Shooting guard Eric Gordon missed 21 games with a left shoulder subluxation. Forward Ryan Anderson was out for 21 games, and struggled in his return. And All-Star power forward Anthony Davis sat for 15 games (including the All-Star Game) with a variety of bumps, bangs and bruises, including a right shoulder sprain that kept him out for a 5-game stretch.

Few people expected the Pelicans to win even a single game of the best-of-seven series versus Golden State, who finished the regular season with the best record in the league, and who only lost two home games the entire year.

New Orleans kept it close in each game, despite a fourth-quarter collapse at home in game three in which they saw a 20-point lead evaporate under a relentless Warriors attack.

However, even without a single postseason win, this Pelicans team has a lot to be proud of, including late-season victories over Golden State and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs as New Orleans battled with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final Western Conference playoff spot.

It was New Orleans’ first postseason appearance since 2011, the last year with the phenomenal Chris Paul and the first year under head coach Monty Williams. After a series of ownership changes and roster shuffling, New Orleans entered a rebuilding phase, slowly but surely putting the pieces in place around Anthony Davis for a legitimate playoff run.

Under Williams the team has improved steadily, albeit with a largely inexperienced, young squad laboring under crushing injuries. In 2012-13 the then-Hornets posted a 27-55 regular season record. Last year, they were 34-48. This year the Pelicans went 45-37 and hung right with the best team in the league who wanted nothing so much as to crush the upstarts and move on.

This was Davis’ third year in the league, and his first appearance in the playoffs — he finished the series as the fourth player to average 30 points per game and 10 rebounds in his first four career playoff games, joining a larger-than-life cadre that includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bob McAdoo.

“It’s tough to win a playoff game,” said Davis after the game. “Overall, I think our team played well. We fought every game. Even when we were down 20 we still fought, both at home and on the road. It’s tough right now to try to take positive things out of this but we came a long way since I’ve been here — the organization, and I’ve come a long way as a player. And I love all those guys in that locker room.”

Davis finished the series against the Warriors averaging 31.5 points and 11 rebounds a game.

“I’m very pleased I won’t have to see Anthony Davis until November at the earliest,” said Golden State coach Kerr. He says Davis will be the league MVP within a few years.

GAME NOTES

Anthony Davis finished with 39 points and 11 rebounds… Eric Gordon put up 29 points and dished out 5 assists… Ryan Anderson had 10 pts. and 6 rebounds and 4 assists… Quincy Pondexter finished with 10pts./8 reb.

The Warriors had 20 fastbreak points tonight. The Pelicans: 0.

Smoothie King Center fans stayed to the end of the game, and gave their team a standing ovation as time ran out.

After the game, head coach Monty Williams said he went into the locker room and told his players to “hold onto this hurt” to help them overcome obstacles in the future.

The Pelicans were the last team to make the playoffs, and the first eliminated.

Jason Saul served as WWNO's Director of Digital Services. In 2017 he took a position at BirdNote, in Seattle.

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