The outcome isn’t surprising. The Pelicans are a good team. However, at times this game looked like New Orleans was the defending NBA Champion. At one point the Pel’s were up by 23.
There were stakes in this game for the Spurs. High stakes. A win would have secured their 21st
Apr 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Boris Diaw (33) dribbles the ball as New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) defends during the first quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
division title (they have won four straight), and the second-seed in the Western Conference. They couldn’t will a victory to happen and they dropped to sixth place in the West. That means road games to the coast- possibly for the first two rounds.
Tony Parker and Boris Diaw had solid games against New Orleans. Parker went for 23 points, and Diaw added 20 in the loss. Clearly this shows the vulnerability of New Orleans against mobile backcourt players, and bigs that move well. They have no shot against Golden State in the first round. ESPN already has a line on the series for New Orleans against Golden State- they are giving the Pelicans a 7% chance of winning the series.
I would never outright say that the Spurs were soft, but I might suggest it. They fact that coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs have a history with New Orleans head coach Monty Williams (former player and assistant coach) doesn’t excuse long post game embraces, nor the following comments from Tim Duncan: “We’re happy for him, very happy for him. He’s worked his butt off over these past couple years…Obviously, I wanted to win and that didn’t change anything, but I guess I get some solace in the fact that he made the playoffs.” This game was for home court, and a division title. I’d start getting nervous if I thought these Spurs were growing comfortable with their success. That is not the narrative to end a career with.
I’ll follow that up by stating that Duncan continues to be the glue for the Spurs. He logged another double-double (15 points and 10 rebounds) to pair with Kawhi Leonard’s 14 and 10. That was Duncan’s 33rd double-double on the season.
The game did get close in the fourth quarter. Patty Mills and Diaw led the charge that pulled San Antonio within four points of a tie with just over seven minutes remaining. Typically it is the Spurs that grind down teams. Tonight, it was New Orleans. They locked in defensively and pushed the lead back out to 11 points.
With the loss, San Antonio vacated the number two-seed in the West, and reluctantly handed the division title to Houston. The Rockets claimed their first division championship since 1994.
Hats off to the Southwest Division. Eight teams make the Playoffs in the Western Conference. The Southwest Division sent all five of their teams, proving that the Division is the toughest in the NBA.
The Spurs draw the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. Sunday night in LA, San Antonio will go head-to-head with one of the most explosive starting front courts in the NBA in what is sure to be a difficult matchup. The depth of San Antonio should put them over the top, but it is going to be physical.