Here is a link to my Thursday column previewing Game 3 between the Warriors and Pelicans. The full text runs below:
METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Pelicans, bless their young souls, are grasping at straws. Or maybe they’re whistling past the graveyard. They’re sure doing something that smells of desperation and surrender. Even if they don’t mean to.
They are a good team, a team on the rise, a team with a fine coach — Monty Williams. A team with a great young player — Anthony Davis. But this playoff experience has them in awe with a little shock mixed in. Playing the Warriors doesn’t help their mindset.
They held practice Tuesday morning in Metairie, the town next to New Orleans. They practice at a state-of-the-art facility about as big as the Pentagon. It lurks behind big fences, and they share the compound with the Saints. It is sports central for New Orleans except for not being in New Orleans.
Here are a few initial quotes from key actors in the Pelicans drama. See if you can spot a theme.
Someone asked point guard Tyreke Evans if the Pelicans “can turn it up a notch?” To which, he answered, “We’re going to have to make it a series. We’ve got to come out aggressive. Hopefully, our crowd can be like the other night in Oakland.”
Before filling out your answer sheet, listen to Davis: “Our fans, they’re going to support us. They make us go. They bring that energy and they bring that noise. It’s going to be a tough game. Best team in the league, but we feel like we can beat them.”
OK, now you can state the theme. If you wrote the Pelicans think they can beat the Warriors because the home crowd in Smoothie King Center — Good grief, what a name — will cheer them home, you win the prize. Not that there is a prize. Unless the Smoothie King Co. gives you a freebie smoothie. Hey, Pelicans is such a crummy name maybe the Pelicans should change their name to the Smoothie Kings.
Getting back to the theme. What is wrong with the Pelicans, including coach Williams, making an “appeal to crowd” as a reason for victory?
Because it’s baloney. How does the New Orleans Baloneys sound?
When a team — a respectable team — is reduced to talking about the crowd, that team is nothing but gumbo. The New Orleans Gumbos? Don’t get all huffy on me. I love gumbo. It’s just that appealing to the crowd is weak and it’s a reach and it shows the Pelicans have run out of answers. Here’s more Evans — he expressed the collective consciousness of his team — then I’ll move over to Davis. Evans made a promise to himself he never would attend a playoff game until he played in one. Remember he used to play for Sacramento, poor guy. So he is both participating in the playoffs and attending them for the first time. That is an interesting storyline.
How does he feel about playoff ball?
“This is our first time, you know.” His voice was humble, tentative. “Like in the fourth quarter (Monday), we’ve got to do a better job of getting a better shot. They know our plays, so I thought, maybe, I should have done a better job of calling a play with some movement.”
Someone asked what he thinks of the “physicality” of the playoffs? “Physicality” being one of the ugliest words in English, right up there with “verticality” and “phlegm.”
“They bang a lot,” he said of the allegedly finesse Warriors. “They’re pushing us. I think the first game we didn’t do a good job. The second game, we sent them a message, let them know we could win the game.”
Except you lost, Tyreke. Some message.
We’ll let Tyreke leave while we jawbone with Davis.
A few preliminary observations on him. He is an old soul. He is only 22, but he speaks slowly in a deep voice. He answers questions thoughtfully and he tries to give good answers, projects poise and wisdom beyond his years.
On why the Pelicans can beat the Warriors:
“They won two games, so we figure we can win two games. We play good at home. We’ve just got to come out like we did at their place in Game 2, and I think we’ll be fine.”
The flawed logic in his statement? Just because the Warriors won two games doesn’t mean the Smoothies can.
More Davis: “We’re home. Get our crowd into it on our home floor.”
Yet another appeal to crowd.
More on why the Pelicans can beat the Warriors. “We’ve done it before and we’re confident in our players and our coaches and our game plan and our schemes that we can beat any team. We’re not, ‘Oh, we can’t beat this team.’ We’re not just going to sit back and see what happens. We’re going to fight to the end. That’s the way this team is built, so we’re going to go out there and fight all 48 minutes and try to come out with a win.”
Brave words from a brave basketball player. He said the Pelicans will fight to the end. That’s what the vanquished usually say. He also said the Pelicans will “try to come out with a win.” Oh, brother.
What has Davis learned about playoff basketball? Spoiler alert — this one is a beaut.
“Well, it’s tough, the physicality (ugh! that ugly word) is different. Calls are different, the environment is different, the atmosphere. Sometimes, you can’t hear yourself think, can’t hear your teammates talk. While we were over there, it felt like everybody’s against you. It’s tough. It’s fun when you get this far in the postseason. You’ve got to have fun with it, can’t stress yourself too much. We’re just out there having fun. I’m out there having fun.”
Why was that quote a beaut? Davis said he couldn’t hear himself think. People always hear themselves think unless they have come unhinged. Did he come unhinged in Oakland?
He said he’s out there having fun. Losing two in a row is fun? Draymond Green nonstop in your grill is fun? Which brings us to Green.
What does Davis think of him?
“Draymond’s a cool dude. It’s always fun playing against him. He’s a great defender. He makes me think more on the floor. I hope I make him think, too.”
Excuse me, but Davis just admitted Draymond Green is in his head. Lord help Davis.
What makes Green such a good defender?
“He’s quick. He could slide his feet. Most people, I could go by them. He can move his feet, so it’s tough to get to some of my moves. I’ve got to figure out some other ways to score.”
See my previous comment.
Finally, do the officials call playoff games differently from regular-season games? “Some of the calls you get in the regular season they’re not playoff calls. I’m trying to figure out ways to score the ball and draw calls I usually get in the regular season.”
Go figure, Anthony. Except there isn’t enough time.
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