The biggest stake in the Pelicans/Clippers Play-in game Friday night was not a win or go home. It wasn’t an all expenses paid trip to be pummeled by the Suns in a first round matchup. It didn’t matter who made it and who didn’t, except to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Clippers we’re without their stars and will be a contender again next season. The Pelicans have a bright future with their shiny new guard in CJ McCollum to play alongside, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson next season.
The Trail Blazers though had not only the biggest stake, but the only real stake in this game, a 2022 1st rnd pick. As part of the CJ McCollum trade, the Blazers were up for the Pelicans pick, but only if New Orleans missed the playoffs.
The first blow was the Pelicans 113-103 ransacking of the Spurs Wednesday. Blazer fans were rooting for Greg Popovich work a miracle. A loss and the Pelicans would be out, the pick conveyed, but no. CJ McCollum recorded 27 first half points, as to raise a middle finger to Portland and led the Pels a step closer to the playoffs. Brick 1.
Then Friday hours before the game, it was announced the Clippers Star Paul George was out with Covid. Brick 2.
in a roller coaster of a game, the Pelicans went on a hot start led by a seemingly unstoppable Ingram, leading by as much as 16. Blazer fans began shake their heads and accept the pick was gone. Then the basketball Gods, played a horrible trick. The jackass of all pranks. The Clippers came back, and not only did they come back, they built a 13 point lead. The pick looked to be the Blazers after all.
The Clippers outscored the Pelicans 38 -18 in the third and took a 10 point lead to the final quarter. But, Willie Green gave a Denzel Washington esque speech and the Pelicans fought back behind Ingram, young Trey Murphy who was originally to be included in the CJ trade, and Larry fricken Nance Jr, who the Blazers threw in last moment to balance the trade out.
Nance finished with 14 pts and 16 rebounds, his best game of the season. Murphy had 14 pts of his own on the night, hitting three after three. Brick three…Blazers out.
Now the Blazers will receive instead the Bucks 2025 1st rnd pick, top four protected. At this point useless. The Blazers likely would have used the Pels pick to trade for Jerami Grant or another established player to put next to Dame. Now, they are down a key asset, and have lost flexibility this offseason.
You know Murphy’s law? If something can go wrong, it will. That seems to be the Blazers slogan. Here is to hoping the Blazers somehow manage to sneak into the top 4, in the draft lottery. The worst they can do is drop to the 8th pick, so CJ, Larry, cross your fingers.