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A memorable season: Joel Meyers' favorite moments from 2017-18 Pelicans season
Team never let down when they had plenty of reasons to
Joel Meyers is the play-by-play man for Fox Sports New Orleans' Pelicans broadcasts
When I look back on the 2017-18 season, the one thing that stands out in my mind more than anything else is how resilient this group was, from the beginning of the season to the very end of the season. I give a great deal of credit to the players and to Alvin Gentry and his staff for staying focused, staying locked in on the task at hand, and the way they competed all season at a very high level. There were very few letdown - over the course of a very long season, that’s possible - but this group didn’t. What stands out is the way they battled and the way they persevered following DeMarcus Cousins' injury.
I remember the road trip, even before DeMarcus went down, the road trip to New York and Boston: the back-to-back and the setback in Atlanta as well. But the high of that road trip, it kind of propelled the team and it bonded together at that time in mid-January. It was the win in New York in overtime, 123-118 over the Knicks. Then going into Boston, a Celtics squad that as we all found out later is deep, talented, and well-coached. But the win in Boston as well in overtime, and the games by Anthony Davis and the way it stood out in my mind’s eye like I was there yesterday and watching those games and calling those games. Anthony with 48 at the Garden and then 45 in Boston at the other Garde. The way he picked it up for the team when they needed it most. Other wins that preceded DeMarcus going down – because it was almost like ‘Before Boogie went down’ and ‘After Boogie went down' - it was almost like two separate seasons. But the winning streak before Boogie went down and the momentum the team had. The wins over a couple of sub-.500s, and then winning on the road in a place where the Pelicans haven’t had a great deal of success but won at Charlotte, and then come home before a packed Smoothie King Center, the high we were all on Friday night, Jan. 26 with a win over the Houston Rockets where AD had 27, Boogie posted a triple-double that included 11 dimes and 13 boards.
But then when Boogie went down, the team battled and came back from that immediate losing streak, and that’s why I bring up the word ‘resilient’. The team started to pull it together after the loss to Philadelphia in February. The double-overtime win at Brooklyn, and Anthony coming up with 44 in the biggest moments, getting big buckets. Going to Detroit after that, and Anthony coming up with 38 in a win over the Pistons. That started the 10-game winning streak. So once again, the way they stuck to the plan, that’s the credit I give to Alvin and his staff because they stayed on point with the team. So they had to adjust and transition after Boogie went down, but they did. They get the wins on the road, as well as the wins back at home against the Lakers and the Miami Heat, and continued with a tough win on the road at Milwaukee in overtime against a very good Bucks squad.
Also in that 10-game winning streak (I can’t forget about a win), a win over a very good San Antonio team where Anthony shined again with 26 points, 15 rebounds. I keep going back to Anthony because he’s been the rock, along with Jrue Holiday, all year long. A phenomenal season for Davis, an incredible year (the best of his career as far as I’m concerned) for Jrue Holiday, and the perseverance of this squad. It’s not one game for me, as much as it’s those moments where they could’ve let down a little bit, been disappointed, but they were resilient and they fought back. Again, the little bumps in the road: home losses like Washington or Utah that weekend in March but they came back, got another win and battled. Even when they lost, whether it was San Antonio or Houston in mid-March, they were close losse, they played well and it was one where the game was there for the taking, but they couldn’t get it done at the very end.
But then they went on another little ‘mini-streak’ and it showed that this team wasn’t going anywhere. The team battled back and then they had the four-game losing streak, but the way they finished the season was absolutely amazing. With the winning streak going into the postseason where every game – don’t forget over the last five or six games of the season (and they finished on a five-game winning streak), every game was like the playoffs had already arrived. So going into the playoffs, the team had momentum but you’re still starting on the road in one of the toughest gyms in the NBA and they won by two at Portland, 97-95.
Then they win going away at Portland. They wanted to get greedy, and they did. They swept the Blazers, and nobody anticipated that.
They get a game off a team that has won two of the last three titles. They could’ve won at home as well. The first was there for the taking, as we know, against the Golden State Warriors, but it got away. I just liked the way the team fought, bonded, and I give credit to Alvin, the players, and then the emergence of certain guys and the leadership displayed by Rajon Rondo.
It was an unforgettable year. Any time you go to the second round of the postseason, a lot of things fall into place and a lot of people worked out really well for you. That was the case for the Pelicans. The way they glued it together despite the adversity they faced. They were resilient all year long.