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Pelicans clinch playoff berth and eliminate Thunder with win over Spurs

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans

Layne Murdoch Jr.

A slight real or imagined, Anthony Davis thinks the Warriors don’t respect his team.

He’ll get a chance to do something about it.

Davis led the Pelicans to a 108-103 win over the Spurs tonight, clinching the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with Golden State for New Orleans and eliminating the Thunder from the playoff race.

Afterward, Davis hugged Pelicans coach Monty Williams.

“I love him, man! I love him!” Davis said. "…He told us, three weeks ago, we were three games out, and everybody counted us out. He said, ‘I’ve been around a long time. Anything can happen.’”

Something did.

The Pelicans won eight of their final 11, passed the Thunder and Suns and made the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

New Orleans hasn’t escaped that “anything can happen” mindset.

The Pelicans jumped to a 20-point lead early in the second quarter and never trailed again. As dangerous as the Spurs are, New Orleans controlled this game and was in little danger of losing late.

But the Pelicans – especially Davis, who who had 31 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks – showed little joy or relief until the final seconds were ticking off.

Chris Paul led New Orleans’ last postseason team, and three straight losing seasons followed before this year’s 45-37 breakthrough.

The Pelicans will begin the playoffs Saturday at Golden State. Tonight, like a win over the Warriors last week, shows the Pelicans are capable of rising to the occasion. They probably won’t win the series, but they can sure make it interesting.

Davis is a legitimate MVP candidate, as his home fans frequently reminded him tonight. However this season ends, he deserves this stage, a chance to shine in at least four straight nationally televised games.

His win-now supporting cast – Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Omer Asik, Ryan Anderson – has stepped up, but this is Davis’ team. He got the New Orleans here.

Remember, this playoff race would have already been decided for Oklahoma City if not for this:

Like I said, Davis and the Pelicans come up big when they need to.

In February against the Thunder, tonight against the Spurs and – maybe, just maybe – in the playoffs against the Warriors.

Anything is possible.