Pelicans stage Hollywood movie ending to advance to playoffs – Crescent City Sports

The twists and turns would make for a good suspense movie.

After all, the stage was already set near Hollywood, in Los Angeles proper.

It was proper for the New Orleans Pelicans to seize the moment and jump on the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference play-in final.

After all, the Clippers suffered a huge blow when their most gifted, proven player, Paul George, was declared out of the game due to health and safety protocol issues.

So, too, was sharpshooter Luke Kennard, the top 3-point percentage shooter in the league, who was nursing a hamstring injury.

Properly, the Pelicans, specifically Brandon Ingram, jumped on the Clippers.

Make that all over the Clippers in what ever up as a 105-101 victory Friday night at Arena.

Ingram went over, around and under a host of defenders to put in 16 points in the first quarter as New Orleans bolted to a 30-22 lead.

The lead grew to 16 points in the second quarter and it appeared, at least for a floating moment, that the Pelicans would prosper all night and win easily.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

By halftime, Los Angeles whittled the deficit to 10 points at 56-46.

Then came the third quarter.

Tyronn Lue went small and it paid off handsomely as the Clippers routinely outhustled and beat the Pelicans to balls and to spots, going on a 20-2 run to take over the game and outscored the Pelicans 38-18 to take a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter at 84-74.

It looked a lot like the last meeting between the two teams in Los Angeles when the Clippers dominated from start to finish in a 19-point win.

Then came the next wild twist as New Orleans decided to rewrite the script of this movie once more.

The Pelicans went smaller as well and relied on veteran Larry Nance, in lieu of Jonas Valanciunas, and it paid off handsomely.

Nance arrived in New Orleans as damaged goods, nursing a knee injury.

He was determined to overcome the malady and return to help his team.

On Easter weekend, thank the Good Lord that on Good Friday, Nance was really good.

Make that very good.

Nance put up 14 points and 16 rebounds in a brilliant effort and it was all about the effort as seven of those rebounds were offensive boards.

CJ McCollum overcame a shaky shooting night to score 19 points.

Ingram, who was double-teamed and bullied in the second half, fought back and fought through it, scoring 30 points on 14 of 21 shooting from the field.

In the fourth quarter, the Clippers increased the lead to 13 before the Pelicans awakened, got multiple, consecutive stops and went on an 11-0 run to pull within 88-85.

Then, McCollum drilled a 3-pointer to tie it 88-all.

That was the beginning of a 10-0 run as the Pelicans bolted to a 101-94 lead.

The Clippers made one more charge, trying to go with the alternate ending script.

Los Angeles pulled within two points twice down the stretch but could not get even.

Valanciunas, who has been so good for this team this year but not so much on this night, put an exclamation point on the win with a dunk from Ingram, double-teamed in the left corner, who found the big man wide open.

While Ingram has become a better overall player and star and while McCollum is a team leader, poised and tough and a star, the other story was who was on the floor in crunch time.

Two of those players were Herb Jones and Trey Murphy.

Both are rookie draft picks.

Both played huge roles again.

Jones had seven points and seven rebounds and defended well.

Murphy drained four of 3-pointers and scored 14 points and the Pelicans were a +26 with Murphy on the floor, by far the best of any player on either team.

Outside of Murphy hitting those four bombs, New Orleans was a woeful 2 of 16 from 3-point range.

Exacerbating the problem was the poor free shooting of the Pelicans, who made just 13 of 25 (52%).

Fortunately, the Clippers were not a whole lot better, making 22 of 34 (65%).

Both teams left points off the board.

When it mattered most, the Pelicans put the necessary points on the board and Willie Green had a huge win, coaching a team he once played for against another team he once played for.

On Good Friday, where so many commemorated the death of their Lord and Savior, Green wore a “God is Dope” shirt to his post-game press conference.

After the win, Green acknowledged what was on his mind, first and foremost.

“The biggest point in all of this, and I talked to the team about it, is that keeping God first in everything that we do and giving him the glory when we have an opportunity, especially on this platform,” Green said. “And that’s what it was, just having faith in each other, staying connected, knowing that we took their best shot. Guys just fought and we’re so proud of that type of effort. That win tonight was big-time.”

Green and his young team proved it could handle the spotlight, the platform of winning a postseason game against huge adversity on the road. They remained faithful, even in the midst of being virtually run out of the building in the third quarter.

While the Pelicans may not be ready for the biggest stage of contending for an NBA title yet, they took a huge step forward Friday night.

The movie conclusion was the happy ending script for the team carrying the New Orleans brand.

Who would have thought the Clippers even had a chance in the second quarter?

Who would have thought the Pelicans even had a chance in the third quarter?

Who would have envisioned the fourth quarter?

That was a well-written suspense movie, to be sure.

Now, Green gets to test his mettle and measure his team against his mentor, former Pelicans head coach Monty Williams and the Phoenix Suns, beginning Sunday night in Phoenix.

Now, the Pelicans and their fans can truly say they are in the playoffs.

Williams should never have been allowed to leave New Orleans.

The way Green is progressing, he may never be allowed to leave New Orleans.

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