Pelicans Beat Bucks 85-84, Take 8th Seed In West


The New Orleans Pelicans (37-30) defeated the Milwaukee Bucks (34-33) tonight in one of the ugliest games of the season.

The Pelicans got zero production from their bench, Anthony Davis struggled against the Bucks defense, and they shot 20% form the field in the 4th quarter.

Despite these trials they somehow they came out on top and pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder (37-30) back into the 9th seed.

The Pelicans came out extremely strong against the Bucks. They began the game with a 15-0 run which gave them significant momentum throughout the first quarter. The Bucks responded by changing their offensive focus.

Mar 17, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) shoots as New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) and center Alexis Ajinca (42) defend during the first half of game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of attacking Davis and Omer Asik at the rim they focused on creating opportunities for their most reliable three-point shooters.

No team has defended Davis better than the Bucks did tonight. They put long agile defenders on him and multiple times he was unable to draw a foul in ways he was accustomed to.

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In addition, They double teamed him on almost every possession and forced him to become a playmaker instead of a pure finisher. Luckily, Davis has emerged as a very capable passer and distributor since the All-Star break.

Over Davis’ last five games he is averaging 27.4 points and dishing out 4.4 assists. Before the All-Star break Davis had NEVER had a game with over 4 assists, so the fact that he is averaging more than that since the break shows an extreme uptick in his playmaking ability.

Giannis Antetokounmpo continued to score efficiently against the Pelicans despite increased defensive attention. Giannis and Kevin Durant are probably the only players as long as Davis who can compete with comparable agility.

He also blocked Davis multiple times and kept up with him in transition. Watching those two compete half a decade from now will be a sight to behold if they continue on their current trajectories.

The Bucks rallied in the second quarter. They slowly cut into the Pelican’s lead and were up by two when the halftime buzzer sounded.

After their initial momentum faded The Pelicans began to play with less synchronization and shot only 33% form the field through the first half. Luckily they could rely on Omer Asik more around the basket more than normal.

Mar 17, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca (42) and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) battle for a rebound during the first half of game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

To start the third quarter the Pelicans went on another momentum driven run. Quincy Pondexter was on a mission from behind the arc and ended the game shooting 5/10 from deep.

Despite the starters rallying to compete, the Pelicans bench was utterly absent from the game.

With three minutes left in the third quarter the Bucks bench had outscored the Pelicans bench 23-0. The Pelicans bench would end the game with a combined (+/-) of -37 while the Pelican’s starters would end with a combined +42.

By the end of the game the Bucks bench had contributed 33 points while the Pelicans had contributed 10.

At the start of the 4th, Davis left the game with a minor injury scare; but luckily returned just a few minutes later. The Pelicans and Bucks continued to trade baskets and runs up until the last few minutes of the game.

Jerryd Bayless and John Henson were extremely efficient off the bench, and combined for 28 points — giving the Bucks a huge boost.

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With three minutes left in the game both teams were tied. Davis received the ball and faced-up before surveying the floor. The Bucks doubled him and forced him back, he quickly read the offense and found Eric Gordon for an open three pointer with no hesitation.

The Bucks responded and put themselves within one point of a win.

Anthony Davis didn’t touch the ball once during the Pelicans final offensive possession. Eric Gordon called for a pick and drove to the rim, only to miss a lay-up with 9.7 seconds left.

The Bucks set up their offense and tried to push the ball but Dante Cunningham forced Giannis to commit a turnover.

Jason Kidd called a timeout just before the ball was lost though, so the Bucks retained the final possession. Down one they ran a screen to free up Ersan Ilyasova behind the arc.

Asik had to make a difficult choice between hedging and closing out on Ersan, or rolling and making sure Zaza Pachulia didn’t capitalize on an easy lay-up.

Asik chose to cover Zaza, and it payed off because Ersan missed the game winning shot.

Mar 17, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) shoots and misses at the buzzer during the fourth quarter of game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center.The Pelicans defeated the Bucks 85-84. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans took a gamble and won a game that very well could have gone the other way. This team managed to secure the victory despite shooting 4/2o in the fourth and receiving no production from their bench.

Regardless of how ugly it was, the Pelicans were able to take the 8th seed from the Thunder. They have only fourteen games left until the regular season ends and to win 50 games they will need to go 13-1 from this point on.

Their ability to make the post-season depends entirely on the Thunder and whether they return to contending form.

As the season comes to a close, stay close to BigEasyBeliever for all Pelicans news and updates…..

Next: The Low Key Genius of Pelicans GM Dell Demps