Pelicans Clippers play-in 2022

the day when… the Pelicans validated their return to the Playoffs

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Off-peak times oblige, TrashTalk has taken the habit each summer of making you relive with emotion the greatest moments of the past season. Even in 2021, moreover, despite a summer that had then put all of our vital forces in PLS, but that’s another story. So we go back to our good old formula, we take a few steps back, a few months, and we remember that this 2021-22 season was crazy, from the first day to the last. Today ? Back to the pretty end of the Pelicans season, which surprised a lot of people and is already announcing the color for the next few years.

Since the departure of Anthony Davis in 2019, New Orleans has not only had good times. Even with Brandon Ingram spreading his wings and earning All-Star status, the guys from Louisiana still lacked a little something to be competitive over a full season. The 2021-22 season was supposed to be the take-off season for the chicks, but not everything went as planned: when we learned even before the start of the season that crack Zion Williamson would (still) be absent for a indefinite period, there was reason to ask a few questions. Add to that a rookie coach, an injury to leader Brandon Ingram in the first weeks and twelve defeats in thirteen games, and you are therefore heading for a great difficult season.. But while they could have thrown away their season and taken out the tank as many would have done, the Pels did not give up. Led by a very strong Ingram once restored, the Bayou franchise will gradually gain momentum and get closer to the top 10 of their Conf. New Orleans is no longer very far from the play-in zone”, but the management led by GM David Griffin will try a gamble to permanently tip the Pels’ season: just before the trade deadline, CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. come to town against Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart (in particular). A boost in offensive level and in leadership that will rebalance the team, allow it to scratch ninth place and keep the hopes of the Playoffs alive.

But for that, you have to get out of the preliminary NBA tournament by winning two games against other teams that are also determined to play the Playoffs. Not a problem for this team which has developed an interesting collective chemistry, especially since the first match against the Spurs is played at home. With a big Ingram-McCollum duo well supported by Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans came out with a big game, all in control, to eliminate San Antonio (113-103) and continue on their way. On the menu for the play-in final? The Clippers, who were able to surpass themselves to compensate for the heavy absences of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Not an easy game to take, especially away from home. Luck will still help our feathered friends a little, since the COVID protocol will force Paul George to forfeit at the last moment when he had returned shortly before. In front of the score throughout the match, the Pels finally embark on a money time with the knife, which they narrowly win (105-101). It’s official, Louisiana players are back in the Playoffs for the first time since 2018.

The course of this team is already very nice when you see what it had to face, and we would have forgiven it a sweep conceded in the first round against normally far superior Suns. But the young Pels were apparently not satisfied. After a first defeat at the Cactus, New Orleans will really launch its series in Game 2: facing a Devin Booker too alone then injured, it’s a whole collective that shines. Behind the big almost triple-double of Brandon Ingram (37 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists), Herb Jones, CJ McCollum or even Jackson Hayes ensured (125-114). We obviously do not forget the duel of the little weasels between Jose Alvarado and Chris Paul, nor the taff of Jojo Valanciunas on Deandre Ayton. The victory in the back pocket, the Pels therefore leave for Louisiana at 1-1 for two matches which promise to be very hot. The first will be narrowly lost (111-114) against the duo Chris Paul – Deandre Ayton with the turning point of the match a nice crack of Jackson Hayes against Jae Crowder. We could have said that the series has turned and that the Louisiana team, almost back to the wall, was going to collapse. Well no, failed again. Led by a Willie Green who shone with his management and his leadership, the young Pelicans came back to match 4 with a knife between their teeth. Results ? A big victory to equalize again in the series (118-103). Clearly, we are far from sweep expected. Despite this good resistance, the Suns will seek their qualification by winning the next two games (112-97 and 109-115). An elimination, but no regrets for a Pelicans team that has proven itself in this season full of twists and turns. With a roster full of potential and well balanced between young talents and veterans of the League, New Orleans will be a team to watch next season.

This is one of the great stories of the season: long at the bottom of the abyss, the Pelicans have raised their heads to move up the rankings, snatch a place in the Playoffs and shake the best record in the League. Waiting for an even better season 2 in 2022-23?

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