The momentum, the score, everything was working against the Pelicans in the third-quarter of a had-to-have-it showdown with the Clippers for the final seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
After leading by 10 points at halftime, the Pelicans went ice cold in the third quarter and entered the final frame trailing L.A. 84-74. That's when first-year head coach Willie Green addressed him team, a speech caught on TNT's cameras and played early in the 4th quarter.
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"We took their best punch. ... Get your frickin hands up," Green shouted to his team. "This is what we live for. This is what we work hard for, OK? We ain't giving this up! We are not freaking giving this up! You've gotta freakin' fight! You've gotta fight!"
And whether Green's speech was the catalyst, or the team simply managed to catch its collective breath against a Clippers squad that spent too much energy in the third quarter, the tide turned in the Pelicans' favor. After the Clippers extended their lead to 87-74 with 10:51 to play in the 4th quarter, and with ESPN's win probability index having them at a 95.4% chance to win the game, the Pelicans responded with a 14-1 run to tie the score at 88 apiece.
They closed the game out with key contributions from rookie Trey Murphy (14 points), an all-around gem from Larry Nance Jr. (15 points, 16 rebounds), and a clutch dunk on an assist from Brandon Ingram to secure the final margin of 105-101 on a night when any free throw attempt seemed like a dangerous proposition (13-25 as a team).
And the result means a showdown for Green against his head coaching mentor, Monty Williams and the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs, New Orleans' first official postseason visit since 2018. That series tips off on Sunday at 8 p.m. in Phoenix.