The Pelicans are headed to the playoffs despite a 36-46 record, courtesy of Friday’s intense 105-101 play-in road win over the Clippers.
As Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype noted, that is the worst record to make the playoffs in the Western Conference since the 1987-88 Spurs, who finished 31-51. The 1996-97 Clippers also made the playoffs at 36-46.
And to think that this year’s Pelicans started 4-16 and played all season without injured former No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson.
“That win was big-time,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said after topping the depleted Clippers on Friday.
The Pelicans blew a 16-point lead, then regained it with just more than 4 minutes remaining.
“It was an emotional game, a ton of highs and lows,” Green said. “But for us, our mentality is we’re going to continue to fight. We’re not going to fade out.”
Green, by the way, is a former guard for the Clippers (2012-14).
Brandon Ingram led the way for New Orleans with 30 points, and CJ McCollum tacked on 19, while Larry Nance Jr. went for 14 points and 16 rebounds. McCollum and Nance were acquired in a February trade with the Trail Blazers.
“This team is resilient,” Nance said. “They started 1-12. That’s so hard to pick yourself up from. I’ve been in seasons like that, it’s hard to keep going and keep striving for it.”
So now, the Pelicans are the No. 8 seed, and are set to face the defending Western Conference champion Suns in the first round. Game 1 is Sunday at 9 p.m. EST. The Suns won the season series, 3-1.