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The New Orleans Pelicans are that speeding truck coming at you on a dark, narrow highway, veering in and out of its lane.

My advice would be tighten your seat belt and pray.

With this surprising Western Conference playoff team, the No. 5 seed as of Tuesday, you expect the unexpected.

There were high hopes this season — until center Demarcus "Boogie" Cousins ruptured his Achilles on Jan. 26 and all of New Orleans was suddenly draped in purple bunting.

You don't lose 25 points and 13 rebounds a game without an achy, breaky heart.

But veteran forward E'Twaun Moore of E.C. Central said the Pelicans' locker room was more determined than despondent. After all, Cousins was on an already deep team with All-Star center Anthony Davis and talented shooting guard Jrue Holiday.

The only "folding" job was in the Pelicans' laundry room with their uniforms and towels.

"We've stayed together with Boogie going down and we're in the playoffs right now," Moore said. "We're a cohesive group. We've got a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things and we have fun playing with each other.

"We like to play really fast and aggressive."

New Orleans caught "Boogie Fever" by acquiring the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins in February of 2017.

Most nights, he was a monster like that 44-point, 24-rebound, 10-assist beatdown of the Bulls Jan. 22 of this year. And, oh yeah, he can also shoot the 3.

But he's gone and the Pelicans have moved on.

"It's crazy. I'm third-oldest on the team," said the 29-year-old Moore, in his sixth NBA season. "Man, time goes by fast. I was one of the youngest when I got here, now I'm one of the oldest.

"But that's good. They listen to me and I support them. I've been around for a while and they know I played on some good teams (Boston, Bulls), so we feed off each other."

Though Davis will make only his second playoff appearance, the Pelicans are not lacking postseason experience when you add 96 career playoff games for Rajon Rondo, 32 for Ian Clark — both with a world championship to boot — and 12 for Moore.

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Incidentally, Moore is the third former Bull on this roster, joining Rondo and Nikola Mirotic.

Good health will determine how far this team goes.

They have only two games the next six days, beginning with Portland Tuesday, after a brutal stretch of playing six games from March 17 to 24.

You can understand why many coaches rest key personnel during parts of the season, a practice started by the Spurs' Gregg Popovich who doesn't care if it's a prime-time TV game or not.

Moore has done his part in staying healthy, starting 72 of 74 games, averaging a career-best 12.3 points, shooting 50.3 percent and 41 percent from deep.

In a recent 96-92 win over the playoff-bound Pacers, Moore pumped in 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, earning praise from Anthony Davis, who told reporters: "He played tremendous on both ends of the floor. Even when we couldn't score, he was able to get into the lane and shoot his little floater, make some 3's and some mid-range jumpers."

It's not all cake and ice cream with these Pelicans heading into the postseason.

They average 111.4 points while giving up 111.0 and have not fared well against the very best — going 1-3 vs. the Rockets and 0-3 vs. the Warriors.

But win or lose, Moore & Company seldom quit and are 24-11 in games decided by seven points or less.

They've played a league-high nine overtime games, winning six. They rank second in the league in assists and points in the paint.

"Sometimes, we don't get back fast enough on defense because we play such a fast-tempo game," Moore said. "Me? I haven't changed much, other than maybe being a little more aggressive.

"Playing 30-some minutes a game now, you definitely got to take care of your body because you feel those aches and pains even more."

Before Cousins went down with a thud, there was talk around the league the Pelicans might make it to the Western Conference Finals.

Moore says hold that thought and tighten your seat belt.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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