Plenty of motivation for Pelicans despite trailing 3-0 to Warriors

No team in NBA history has ever recovered to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0. In fact, only three times has a team even gotten to a Game 7 from a 3-0 deficit, the most recent instance taking place a dozen years ago.

Sobering facts indeed, but ones the New Orleans Pelicans will likely ignore as Game 4 of their first-round series vs. Golden State approaches Saturday (7 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans, Pelicans Radio Network, ESPN). Unlike most NBA series that feature a 3-0 margin, Pelicans-Warriors has been uniquely competitive. Golden State’s average regulation margin has been just 5.7 points, including home wins by 10 and seven points, followed by an overtime escape in Game 3. Of the five current NBA playoff series with a 3-0 spread, Golden State is the only leader that has not prevailed in any game by more than 10 points.

The Pelicans have played progressively better in each game, going from down 25 at one stage in Game 1, to entering the fourth period tied in Game 2, to going up by 20 in Game 3 before losing in OT. If that trend of game-by-game improvement continues Saturday, New Orleans has a chance to book a trip back to California for a Game 5 on Tuesday.

“We’ve just got to go out and fight, not let them just have the game, even though we’re down 3-0,” said Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, who’s making his playoff debut. “We’ve still got to fight. I don’t want to get swept. So we’re going in with the intention to win the game.”

“No one really gave us a chance before the playoffs even started, that we were going to come this close and be this competitive,” said guard Eric Gordon, also a postseason newcomer. “We’re not really worried about the deficit of being down 3-0. We’re just going to go out and play in front of our fans and try to win. … We know we can beat these guys.”

Other than the competition – Golden State may be the NBA’s best team and is proving that by going 70-15 overall this season – the biggest challenge Saturday for New Orleans may come from a mental standpoint, trying to bounce back from a disappointing finish Thursday in Game 3. Coach Monty Williams spent part of the past two days reminding his players how they’ve been able to rebound from bitter losses throughout the 2014-15 season. For example, after a New Year’s Eve OT loss at San Antonio that featured a freak tip-in play at the fourth-quarter buzzer, the Pelicans pounded Houston two days later.

“We talked about the resiliency we’ve had after tough losses,” Williams said. “We’ve had them all year. Right after the San Antonio game, we came back and beat Houston, so we’ve shown that we can bounce back. That’s what we have to do.

“No team, at least since I’ve been around, has gotten to where they want to go without going through something pretty tough. The Spurs had 28 seconds and a five-point lead in the Finals (but ended up losing Game 6 to Miami in 2013, then the series). They had to hold on to that all summer. We’ve got a chance with another game to extend this series and get back to California.”

“This is a test of our will tonight,” said guard Jrue Holiday, who is OK to play Saturday and whose name has been removed from the official injury report. “We know that we could pack it up and it’d be over tonight. But we’re going to go down fighting. That’s just the type of team we are. We’ve been through adversity all year.”