Before heading to South Beach for their Christmas Day matinee against the Miami Heat, the Pelicans (9-19) stopped by the Smoothie King Center and were able to take care of business against the visiting and struggling Portland Trail Blazers (11-20) with a 115-89 victory.
Even though Portland was without their best player (Damian Lillard, who averages 24.6 points per game, was out with a nagging foot injury), it was good to see the Pelicans comfortably secure a victory.
The win marks the team’s first back-to-back victories since they won three straight at the end of November.
The first frame was fairly competitive, with the Pelicans squeaking out a 26-23 edge. It was in the second quarter that the Pelicans were really able to pick up some steam.
Both teams were struggling from behind the three point line for most of the first half. The Pelicans started 2-14 and Portland was not much better.
Fortunately for the Pels, they were the ones that started to heat up. 9 of the next 13 attempts from long range would hit, inflating the lead to almost 30 by the end of the game.
Dec 23, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh (21) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Trail Blazers 115-89. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The deep ball definitely helped, but opportunistic offense was what really got the ball rolling for the team.
At the end of the first half the Pelicans had scored 19 points off of 10 Trail Blazers turnovers while also shutting out Portland in that category. A 25-6 total at the end of any game will certainly make the coaching staff smile.
Anthony Davis once again led the way for the Pels with a game-high 28 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 3 blocks.
This was one of those games where Davis did not appear to be imposing himself on the offense too much, but then you look at the box score and are blown away by the total.
When he is knocking down that mid-ranged jumper, even when he has an open lane to the basket, things are good for the big man.
No matter what sport is in question, “doing the little things” is always on the checklist for winning teams.
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Dominating points off of turnovers was one success in this department, and knocking down free throws was the other. Two misses from Norris Cole late and one miss from Davis were the only three on a pristine 20-23 night from the charity stripe.
The Pels are right in the middle of the league in attempts per game with 23.5 and they rank 6th in made percentage at 79.6%. Every point counts, especially for a struggling team, so staying focused at the line could go a long way moving forward.
Jrue Holiday continues to impress despite his minutes restriction. In only 21 minutes on the court, Holiday racked up 19 points on 7-13 shooting and dished out 5 assists without a single turnover.
Dec 23, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Gerald Henderson (9) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
He is getting everywhere on the floor that he wants to, and even when he can’t get to a great spot, he has consistently been able to bail out the offense with high difficulty shots, whether they be runners off the glass or Steph Curry-range three pointers.
Hopefully his great play will continue once his minutes start to rise in the new year, because with Holiday running on all cylinders this team is bound to make up some ground in the win column.
Tyreke Evans neared a triple double with 24 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson shot a combined 6-14 from three and totaled 24 points between them.
The “Finishing Five” of Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis got to play a few more minutes together, and even though the sample size is small, results continue to impress. A sky-high 150.3 Offensive Rating and a stingy 92.4 Defensive Rating should be enough to get any fan excited.
Like I said, the sample size is still small, but if this lineup is given the chance to wreak havoc for a few minutes a game, it could become a lineup no team wants to face.
Dec 23, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) reacts after a score against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Pelicans have had a rough start to the 2015-2016 season. They currently sit at 9-19, but they have two straight wins heading into a primetime Christmas Day matchup tomorrow against the Miami Heat (11 AM CST).
There is plenty of talk amongst Pelicans faithful that the season is lost, but I refuse to get on that bandwagon. I ‘get’ the desire for a high draft pick, and I get the frustration aimed all over the organization. But I still have faith that this team can turn things around and make a run.
2016 is right around the corner, and anything can happen in the last two thirds of the NBA season…..