by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher – editor@thegazebogazette.com

Reminiscent to a playoff game of the Saints, the Smoothie King Center; aka “the Blender”, was filled with red shirts cheering on the New Orleans Pelicans NBA basketball team for their first playoff game since 2018.  The Pelicans held off a fourth period comeback and eliminated the San Antonio Spurs 113-103 in their first NBA play in game.

“Wow, it was really, really loud. Some moments I had to cover my ears. It was great. I mean great atmosphere, great support,” expressed Pelicans Center Jonas Valančiūnas. “ That’s what we need and it’s fun to play in front of this crowd. I said earlier, this was as loud as this has been here and now we’ve got to keep building on that.”

As skeptics from national media have stated that New Orleans is not “a basketball town,” the New Orleans Pelicans overcame adversity by starting off 1-12 in the tough NBA Western Conference.  The Pelicans finished as the 9th seed, where they hosted the first play-in game and now will play against the Los Angeles Clippers Friday to earn a spot against the Phoenix Suns in a 5-game series for the NBA Playoffs.

“We will celebrate tonight and tomorrow morning we will get up and start preparing for the Clippers,” said New Orleans Pelicans first year coach Willie Green.  “We have a good idea of  who they are as a team, but it’s going to be another extremely difficult challenge for us. We just have to get ready.”

With a small lead after the first period 26-22, New Orleans went on a 11-3 run that lasted 2:02 minute of play and gave the Pelicans a 32-25 lead. · Pelicans are on a 11-3 run over the last 2:02 (0:29, 1st quarter to 10:27, 2nd quarter).

The Pelicans led by as many as 21, while the Spurs only led by as many as six points in the first half. There were two lead changes and only two times when the game was tied.

The Spurs went on a 16-3 run over 5:33 minutes of the fourth quarter, which cut the Pelicans’ lead to 99-91 with 4:33 left in regulation.

Pelicans Guard CJ McCollum led the way, posting 32 points, seven assists and six rebounds where he scored most in the first half, he scored 27 points.  New Orleans Forward Brandon Ingram scored 27 points, shooting 11-of-19 from the floor while adding five assists and five boards.

Valančiūnas finished the game with 22 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. The center currently ranks fourth in the NBA in total rebounds.

Off the bench, Pelicans Guard Jose Alvarado posted 12 points, shooting 4-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-4 from three-point range. In the second quarter, he scored 10 of his 12 points, converting a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc.  Alvarado played 54 games this season for the Pelicans. He finished the season with a total plus/minus of plus-143 on the season, which led all rookies in the NBA. In addition, Alvarado is ranked 1st among all NBA rookies with a 3.80 assist/turnover ratio and he is ranked 2nd among NBA rookies in steals per game (1.3).

“They were more physical. They executed better. They deserve credit,” said legendary, 27-year San Antonio Spurs Basketball Coach Greg Popovich.  “Willie’s (Green) guys did a great job. Happy for him.”

New Orleans outshot San Antonio from the field, converting 44-of-81 (.543) from the floor, while the Spurs shot 37-of-91 (.407) from the floor.  Additionally, New Orleans outscored San Antonio 56-38 in points in the paint and out-rebounded the Spurs 53-34.

The Pelicans play Friday, April 15th at 9pm against the Los Angeles Clippers at “The Crypto” for the final play-in game.