The Pelicans did honor their past in a way, putting a full piece band worth of NBA Playoffs pressure on Chris Paul and Monty Williams. But as much as the Big Easy should beat their chest after that game 4 beatdown let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After a 1-12 start, Pelicans fans are taking time to enjoy every playoff headlining moment.
The buildup to the weekend had pockets of excitement in the city that rivaled the Final Four in a way. They were at the Rusty Nail, Mid-City Yacht Club, and Red Door on Carrollton. Sure there were fewer people, but the individual energies in the small-yet-growing Pels12 family resembled a college atmosphere. The love just went deeper, and it was palpable. A plastic fanbase this is not. Pictures and word of the watch parties have gotten around. Even New Orleans bars tremble at the thought of the 12.
— The Pels 12 (@ThePels12) April 23, 2022
You could smell the vibes in the air like a week-long crawfish boil coming off a 125-114 Game 2 win in Phoenix on Tuesday. It reminded me of Mardi Gras after Katrina. Only the diehard locals even dared to venture outside, much less revel in the struggle that got us to those precious moments. Maybe for some, it was more akin to the week after Mardi Gras proper when all the locals let loose and spend that well-earned tourist tip money. Fuck those lightweight tourists right along with Jae Crowder.
Some might have claimed the Pelicans were playing with house money but Willie Green would argue otherwise. It’s a whole new season now. His team was 1-1 entering the weekend, just 15 wins away from a title. And Choppa was in the house to perform. Green is more likely to get the gat than admit defeat in this series.
The pregame drinks for Game 3 started 36 hours before tipoff with the Preservation Brass Band hitting the horns at 11:15 in historic Jackson Square. French Quarter Fest is now 38 years old, starting in 1984 “to remind locals how fabulous and fun the French Quarter can be.” Remember, there is pride on Bourbon Street. Stages at every corner form a wall of sound that can be heard at every restaurant you should actually eat at in the city. It is, quite simply, the “Largest Showcase of Louisiana Music in the World!”
Game 3 did not go as planned for New Orleans with a 114-111 loss. A sold-out Smoothie King Center crowd watched the Pelicans battle back to fall short on the return of Chris Paul and Monty Williams. Deandre Ayton had 28 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 steals to help close out the win to take a 2-1 series lead.
The Pelicans got burned in the second quarter and they did it mostly to themselves. It happens when staggering just off Bourbon Street on a Friday night. A pro in a playoff game? That’s a different story.
New Orleans had a lead but then Jaxson Hayes got some ill-timed payback on Jae Crowder, the game become a little less friendly, and New Orleans made mistakes that let the Suns stretch out an 11-point lead at halftime.
Fine. It happens. A little Saturday shake-off after a long, extended work week on the road does a body good. The Pels had not slept in their own beds since going to LA and ending the Clippers’ season. New Orleans might lose a game, but they’ve never lost a party. Cantrell’s canceled Mardi Gras be damned. The locals still let loose then, so I let out onto the Quarter just after 10 in the morning.
I knew I’d need food to survive the day. The tank was already below half-full but Lasyone’s Meat Pies and Ms. Linda The Yakamein Lady washed down with a WWOZ Mango Freeze solved all of my problems up to, but definitely not including, a ‘single’ relationship status, taxes, and world peace. Figuring those issues could wait for later, I hit Jacques Imo’s stand to shake back from the afternoon sweats.
I wanted to see Ryan Hall and Juno Dunes, but Bonerama, Erica Falls, and Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington and the Roadmasters were the damn leads into the Soul Rebels set. After a couple of alcoholic extras were added to another Mango Freeze, I sat my ass down by the Woldenberg Riverfront Park stage and waited for my legs to catch up for the evening stroll.
After the Soul Rebels put the spirit back in my step I rolled a smoke and walked back to the bed waiting for me in Mid-City. Sunday was going to test my cardio in ways not known since the pre-COVID days. Still, I stopped at Red Door for a double whiskey midway through the journey. That could be fake news though, the only source reporting this development is my banking app.
The bands started to blur together as I skipped past the stages on Sunday. It was all undercard entertainment anyways. Game 4 was a powder keg from the opening tip.
The “Fuck Jae Crowder!” chants rang out for almost 3 minutes at the end of the first half. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Crowder got called for a foul just seconds into the third quarter and the crowd was again more engaged in the game than the most recent popcorn run. Then came the Jaxson Hayes and Brandon Ingram dunks. The fans sensed the setting of these Suns. Ingram was the eclipse getting the NBA world’s attention. One couldn’t help but think it’s just time for everything to break right for this franchise.
“I feel it’s our time,” – B.I. pic.twitter.com/YhxE6zQXGw
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) April 25, 2022
No one wearing red sat down once Jose Alvarado GTA’d a frustrated Paul late in the game. Not even Jamie Foxx…who created a thread. Add DJ Jess and a Bailey Flores performance and the Smoothie King Center had turned into the best little house party in the country just after halftime. Birdman stuck around to pay his respects to BI for putting on a show.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) April 25, 2022
The New Orleans Pelicans now have everyone’s attention. The memories from this series will stick with the city for a while. This weekend will be seen as the turning point of the franchise in the years to come. Yeah. This team. This city. Just a couple of Partners N’ Crime that will get at least one more game to celebrate the most beloved roster in franchise history.
Yes. The. Most. Beloved. Squad. The Chris Paul Hornets were inherited, the history belonged to a different city, the baggage to a different owner. No team with Anthony Davis can be fully loved in New Orleans, even if Jrue Holiday’s 11 is the next number retired. Even if these Pelicans never win another game, the whole team will be invited back for honorary anniversaries until the end of time. But, as Ingram said, it’s their time now.