The NBA Playoffs bring a certain kind of seven-game series pressure but the introduction of the NBA Play-In Tournament has injected some elimination game intensity into the postseason. The extra opportunities to keep a team's NBA Finals dreams alive have been a lifeline to the New Orleans Pelicans. They've been in the Play-In three consecutive seasons but Willie Green has perhaps never been under more pressure to win, though his job is apparently not on the line this week.

The Los Angeles Lakers hit the Pelicans with a “punch in the mouth” defeat in the regular season finale. It's a tough loss that Green can take on the chin secure in the knowledge that a contract extension was already a done deal.  Green “has multiple years remaining on a (contract) extension that had not been previously reported,” per The Athletic's Sam Amick. The note was published in Amick's postseason coaching tiers piece.

The well-timed article has provided a release valve to cool down the seat of the third-year head coach. CJ McCollum was pinpoint adjustments but there were just too many failures in execution to go over after the latest home defeat. The Smoothie King Center's fans had little to cheer for and things were tense on the walk out of the arena knowing a rematch with Lebron James was looming.

Progress is not judged in a vacuum though. Green is being rewarded for guiding the franchise through some rough times. Zion Williamson dealt with a litany of injuries and needed to get mentally correct by his admission. Green provided a sanctuary on the court and in the locker room, which was never lost despite some double-digit losing streaks.

Willie Green's Pelicans determined to respond in Play-In

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green gives direction to forward Zion Williamson (1) on a time out against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Smoothie King Center.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans (49-33) will host the Lakers (47-35). The winner of that seventh versus eighth matchup is rewarded with a first-round series against the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets (57-25). It's not an ideal scenario considering the sixth seed and a series with the shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves was on the table. New Orleans just had to beat Los Angeles on national television and fell well short of the required standard, again.

As was the case in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament, the Lakers embarrassed the Pelicans in front of a huge audience. Anthony Davis has been all smiles since joining up with LeBron James and gets one more chance to put a nail in his former franchise's coffin. Green's group has to respond. They'll have four days of scouting to figure out a Game 1 game plan for Nikola Jokic's Nuggets.

A loss means one day off to regroup before facing either the Sacramento Kings or Golden State Warriors. The Pelicans are 5-0 against the Kings. Steph Curry is another story. Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have eliminated the Pelicans on two out of their past three trips to the postseason.

Curry finished with 42 points (15-22) in the Smoothie King Center back in October. The Warriors dealt the Pelicans their first defeat of the season. Green's job, now secured with an extension, is to make sure Curry isn't the last future Hall-of-Famer Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram get to face off against this postseason.