For All the Dogs

NEW ORLEANS – The word “dog” has become a common colloquialism over the past half-century. According to, it has 16 different meanings as a noun and 4 as a verb. None of the definitions listed evoke the feeling I felt on Wednesday.

Game 2 of the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs, the New Orleans Pelicans revisited the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pelicans entered this game down 0-1 to the number 1-seeded Thunder. The closely contested Game 1 ended 94-92 with a CJ McCollum clean-look 3 that missed back rim. Game 2 was the complete opposite.

Oklahoma City is this quaint quiet town. From my walk to the Sheraton, it was a 7-minute walk to the Paycom Center, while being in a 2-square mile radius of some elite steak restaurants. Also, there was this serene park with multiple displays of flowers and Indian mounds with people greeting you along your walk in 70-degree weather.

Yet, when the lights switched from day to night, the vibes in the Paycom Center changed

The energy inside the arena was a sight to behold. Cell phone lights illuminated the air while an OKC-branded drone powered mini blimp floated. Every Thunder fan in the building wearing the white game shirts cheered in unison. The jumbotron was used to bully other fans into wearing the gifted OKC shirts, and to that, they obliged. Their pregame rituals provided a college-like atmosphere orchestrated by the crowd of 18,203.

That energy was transferred onto the court.

The Thunder outscored the Pelicans 35-22 in the first quarter and never looked back. Throughout the game, the Pels never truly threatened the lead of the Thunder. 18 turnovers including 8 offensive fouls led to the largest lead ballooning to 34 points. The Thunder are the 2nd youngest team in the NBA, and yet they don’t operate like it. They played with energy – force – effort, but also with patience – grace – and practicality.

Post-game, Jonas Valanciunas who finished the game with 19 points and 7 rebounds stated his team “didn’t expect [the Thunder] to play that hard.”

The Pels got dog-walked and barking filled the arena like a DMX concert in 2000 after every Jalen Williams’ bucket.

And that’s the part that had me questioning it all. New Orleans used to be that way. The Pelicans have predicated themselves on being energetic and playing with force and effort. The Blender, without the bells and whistles of a modern arena, has been a haven for fans to be obsessed with their basketball team.

We can remember the Phoenix Suns’ color commentary – Eddie Johnson accusing the Pelicans’ organization of pumping noise into the Smoothie King Center because he couldn’t believe it was that loud last year. Also, I recall a mid-December matchup between the Minnesota Timberwolves where Zion took over and scored the last 13 points, and their executives were complementary of the atmosphere the fans provided. Chris Paul, for as much as he’s done for this organization, gets booed because of his altercation(s) with Jose Alvarado. Eric Gordon has not played for New Orleans since 2016 and still receives a host of boos.

New Orleans never forgets, but what happened to that feeling? What happened to the doggish mentality? Why is that inconsistent? Do not tell me it is because of winning. The Pelicans won 49 games this season, which is the second most in franchise history. Yet, the Pelicans are a mere 2 games over .500 at home (21-19) and went 1-7 in their last 8 home games.

Dogs are known for being territorial, and Louisianans are no different. Saturday at 2:30 might be a good time for the dogs to bury their bones.

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