Pelicans, not Thunder, show they’re ready to tangle with West’s best


Stephen Curry’s final shot rimmed in and out.

Now, the Pelicans go from out to in.

New Orleans outlasted the Warriors in a thriller, 103-100, tonight to jump the Thunder – who got blown out by the Spurs – for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Pelicans (42-35) both lead Oklahoma City (42-36) by a half game and hold the tiebreaker thanks to a 3-1 advantage in the season series.

After tonight, New Orleans might also claim the backing of unaffiliated basketball fans.

The Pelicans won’t beat Golden State in a seven-game series, but they could sure create a few fun games.

New Orleans still runs through Anthony Davis, who had 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals tonight. But with role players like Quincy Pondexter (20 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc) stepping up, New Orleans is a more complete team than the Thunder.

Sure, Russell Westbrook if a force. But slow him, and Oklahoma City crumbles.

San Antonio jumped to a 35-10 lead tonight while frustrating Westbrook to 1-of-6 shooting. The Spurs cruised to a 113-88 win, and Westbrook finished with just 17 points, two assists and two rebounds.

The Thunder have lost four straight overall and eight straight to Western Conference playoff teams.

The Pelicans haven’t been much better against top teams, using a recent four-game winning streak over the Kings, Timberwolves, Lakers and Kings to get back in the postseason race. But tonight’s win shows New Orleans might be blossoming at the right moment. Given its remaining schedule compared to Oklahoma City’s, it might have to be.


  • at Grizzlies
  • vs. Suns
  • at Rockets
  • at Timberwolves
  • vs. Spurs


  • vs. Kings
  • at Pacers
  • vs. Trail Blazers
  • at Timberwolves

There are parallels between these Pelicans and the 2009-10 Thunder, who, as the No. 8 seed in their first postseason in years, pushed the top-seeded Lakers to six games. New Orleans has that same type of potential.

As good as Westbrook has played since Kevin Durant’s season-ending injury, can he alone really steal more than a game against the Warriors? As Golden State has shown all season, beating a complete team is much more difficult than beating an elite individual (though the Warriors have the advantage of possessing both).

The Pelicans might have needed a bad call to win tonight – and, more broadly, that bad call to make the playoffs. But they didn’t need that a favorable whistle to challenge Golden and create an exciting environment in New Orleans.

Once Durant and Serge Ibaka get healthy, Oklahoma City should be a force again next season. Westbrook will still have a major say in how this season ends for the Thunder, who are far from eliminated.

But right now, it looks like the Pelicans’ time.

NBA admits three incorrect calls by referees in final minute of Suns’ win over Pelicans


The NBA has recently begun publishing Last Two Minute reports of calls made by the officials in all games where the margin was within five points with two minutes to play.

Fans may disagree, but for the most part, the referees at the NBA level do a consistent job of officiating well in a fast-paced environment where they’re forced to make split-second decisions, and these reports largely confirm as much.

But in the final minute of Thursday night’s contest between the Suns and the Pelicans — a game the Suns won by two points, and one that was critical in keeping Phoenix’s fading playoff hopes alive — the league’s report concluded that the officials botched three different calls in the final 49.5 seconds.

Depending on who you were rooting for, the first incorrect call was probably the most egregious.

With 46.1 seconds remaining, Eric Gordon drains a wide open three to cut a four-point lead down to just one. The problem was that Quincy Pondexter set an illegal screen on P.J. Tucker to get Gordon loose, but the officials swallowed their respective whistles.

“Pondexter turns sideways while setting the screen on Tucker and does not give him the opportunity to stop and/or change direction,” the report said.

The last two calls the league deemed to be incorrect came on the same possession, with under eight seconds remaining. Tyreke Evans traveled before he got up his attempt at a potentially game-winning shot, but no call was made.

“Evans ends his dribble on his right foot, then goes left, right, left for a total of 3 steps,” the report says.

Then, on the ensuing scramble for the rebound, Eric Bledsoe was ruled to have fouled Alexis Ajinca, but again, nothing was called.

What all of these plays have in common is the referees seemingly not wanting to decide the game; they’d rather be left out of the story, and have the players decide it themselves. Most fans are likely fine with that way of thinking — unless their favorite team is the one that happened to get hosed.

Three Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: Knicks beat Spurs? Pistons beat Grizzlies? What?


If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while planning your vacation to a new island

1) The Knicks came from behind to beat the Spurs? Yes. What’s next, the Washington Generals beating the Harlem Globetrotters? The Spurs led by 13 in the third quarter and looked like they would run away, but what Gregg Popovich said afterward rang true — the Spurs didn’t respect the game. The Knicks did — starting with Alexy Shved. The Russian point guard made the play that sent the game into overtime by driving the lane, getting Tim Duncan to commit on defense, then  dropping the ball off toLou Amundson, who hit the layup to tie the game and force overtime. Then in what was a sloppy OT Shved made maybe the key play, getting Borris Diaw to leave his feet on a pump-fake and jump forward, so Shved could draw the foul and get to the line. Then he had the key defensive play in overtime tipping away Duncan’s pass to a cutting Kawhi Leonard. You know if Shved is making key defensive plays it’s just the Knicks night. The problem for the Spurs is in the crowded West this is the kind of win they need to have. San Antonio had played well of late, just a rough time for a one-off night.

2) Detroit got a big game from Reggie Jackson and beat the Grizzlies? Yes. Detroit had struggled since bringing in Reggie Jackson at the trade deadline — they had lost 10 games in a row. Jackson had been up and down trying to fit in with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe up front. You had to question if Jackson was right for this team or if the Pistons let him walk this summer when he’s a restricted free agent. But Tuesday night Jackson was brilliant, scoring 23 points and dishing out 20 assists, the second guy to do it this season (the other was Brandon Jennings the game before he got injured). Other Pistons scored 25 buckets when Jackson was on the court, he assisted on 20 of them. Jackson was more comfortable with the stretch four Anthony Tolliver in for the injured Greg Monroe, who prefers to play closer to the rim. This was a game Memphis will feel it should have won (especially if Portland climbs past it in the standings) — the Grizzlies were up 15 at the half. Mike Conley being out shouldn’t have mattered at that point, this was a winnable game. Throw some credit to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 16 points in the third quarter for Detroit, including some back-to-back threes that helped change the game’s momentum.

3) The Pelicans are the eighth seed in the West again. Remember if the Pelicans and Thunder finish the season tied, it is New Orleans with the tie breaker. That’s where we are again — both teams are 37-30 — after the Pelicans got the one-point win over the Bucks Tuesday. One that seems lucky after Ersan Ilyasova’s wide-open three to win the game (seriously, how did he get that open?) hit the rim, the backboard, the rim again and fell harmlessly to the ground. We really were all watching this one to see Anthony Davis (20 points, 12 rebounds)  vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo (15 points, nine rebounds and five assists). They went head-to-head a few times, which is always entertaining. But Davis is happier with the 18 points from Quincy Pondexter, the 16 from Omer Asik and the win. With Serge Ibaka out for pretty much the regular season, the Pelicans have a real opportunity. Will they take advantage?

Anthony Davis finishes the half-court alley-oop over Celtics’ Tyler Zeller (VIDEO)


It was only the opening moments of the game, but Anthony Davis was pumped nonetheless.

He went up high to convert the alley-oop throw-down from Quincy Pondexter, and seemed to take an extra bit of satisfaction from the fact that he was able to get up over Tyler Zeller to complete the acrobatic play.

Anthony Davis hits a three at the buzzer, Pelicans beat Thunder (VIDEO)


There was an incredible finish in Oklahoma City on Friday between the Thunder and the Pelicans, two teams trying desperately to sneak into the postseason in the crowded Western Conference.

It went down like this.

The Thunder trailed by one with 17 seconds remaining, and had possession. The ball went to Kevin Durant, who missed a long, step-back two over Anthony Davis. New Orleans secured the rebound, but Tyreke Evans turned it over in an attempt at a long outlet pass. Durant came up with the steal and drove the lane, but missed again, this time right at the rim.

Davis came up with the rebound, and was intentionally fouled with a couple of seconds left. He hit both free throws to push the lead to three, and now it was the Thunder’s chance to try to tie things up.

The ball went to Russell Westbrook at the top of the three-point arc, and he fired and missed. But Quincy Pondexter ran right through him as he was in the air, and the referees correctly blew the whistle, awarding Westbrook three free throws.

Westbrook made all three, and with 1.2 seconds remaining, the Pelicans would have one last chance to avoid the overtime session.


Davis finished with 41 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook finished with 48 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists.

Both players are MVP candidates, yet neither of their respective teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

With this incredible victory, however, the Pelicans now find themselves just a half-game out.