The New Orleans crowd chanted “MVP” at Anthony Davis as he led the Pelicans to a 108-103 win over the defending champs and a playoff berth, and if you choose to define “valuable” as singlehandedly being the difference between the postseason and going home, there really is no other choice.

Davis has been incredible. At just 22 years old, in his third NBA season, he has schlepped a roster full of jetsam to 45 wins and to the playoffs, and he has done it on both ends of the court (last night’s 31 and 13 was not atypical). The Game-82 clinch against a Spurs team that definitely wanted to win—San Antonio could have had the two-seed with a victory; instead they are sixth in the West, with a ridiculous path to the finals—was his biggest career achievement so far, and he felt it.

“Honestly, I know I all told ya’ll before this game it didn’t mean nothing, but I tried to downplay it because I didn’t want to get too excited,” Davis said. “It meant a lot — and we played like it meant something.

“We played our hearts out.”

They might have done it, partially, for their coach. According to a report from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pelicans had to reach the playoffs to preserve the jobs of Monty Williams and GM Dell Demps:

Harsh, and arbitrary—are Williams and Demps really that much more qualified because, say, Davis made his February buzzer-beating three against the Thunder rather than missed it? But the players do seem to genuinely love playing for Williams.

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Despite a Pelicans rep’s denial of Wojnarowski’s report, this game clearly meant a ton to Williams.

“I almost let them (tears) go,” Williams said. “They were on the way.”

The Pelicans and Thunder finished with the same record, but New Orleans goes through for a first-round date with the Warriors based on winning the season series with OKC 3-1. That slimmest of margin, which saved Monty Williams’s job, might possibly cost Scott Brooks his, according to another report from Wojnarowski. If only the Thunder had a player as dependable as Anthony Davis.

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