Turkish center Aşık and his Pelicans subdue Spurs to snatch playoff berth
New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) passes around San Antonio Spurs center Aron Baynes to Pelicans center Omer Asik (3) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. AP PhotoTurkish center Ömer Aşık and his New Orleans Pelicans broke the San Antonio Spurs’ 11-game winning streak on April 15, punching their playoff ticket on the last day of the regular season.
Anthony Davis scored 31 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and blocked three shots to lead the Pelicans to a 108-103 win over the reigning NBA champions, who were storming into the post-season.
Aşık posted nine points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block to help the Pelicans clinch the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. They will open on the road against the Golden State Warriors.
With the NBA regular season over, Aşık will be one of three Turkish players in the playoffs, along with Hidayet Türkoğlu of the Los Angeles Clippers, who will play the Spurs, and Ersan İlyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks, who will take on the Chicago Bulls in the first round.
New Orleans needed the victory to grab their first post-season appearance since 2011, because Turkish center Enes Kanter’s Oklahoma City Thunder, also chasing the final berth, had trounced them in Minnesota 138-113.
Russell Westbrook scored 34 of his 37 points in the first half, and the Thunders scored a season-high point total. But their effort went unrewarded after the Pelicans handed the Spurs their first defeat since March 24.
Though Westbrook had secured a regular-season scoring for the first time, he was in no mood to celebrate. “Doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “Good job. Hurray. I’m at home. Watching other teams play.”
The Spurs could have clinched the Western Conference second seed with a win. Instead, Houston secured the second seed with a 117-91 victory over Utah.
James Harden had a triple-double by the end of the third quarter, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Rockets, who also captured the title in the Southwest Division, which will send all five of its teams to the playoffs.
It’s the first time all teams from one division will compete in the same post-season since 2005-06, when the Pistons, Cavaliers, Pacers, Bulls and Bucks all advanced from the Central Division.
Memphis, second in the Southwest, earned home-court advantage in the first round with a 95-83 win over Indiana, ending the Pacers’ playoff hopes.
Indiana could have grabbed the final berth in the Eastern Conference with a win or a Brooklyn Nets defeat. However, Brooklyn defeated Orlando 101-88, thanks in large part to a career-high 28 points by Bojan Bogdanovic.