The basketball gods have had their way the Pelicans this season, whether it be through the never ending injury bug, the general early season struggles, anything else that has gone wrong this season.
If they had their way, the Charlotte Hornets would have likely left New Orleans with a victory tonight.
However, the Pelicans were finally able to fight against those dastardly deities tonight, earning the 109-107 victory. They came out and defended their home court in a tightly contested game, one that they could have easily surrendered to their opponents.
As a team, the Hornets shot 49% from the field and 40% from three point range on 35 attempts (!!) while only turning the ball over 11 times. That kind of offensive efficiency gets the job done more often than not, simply because it would take an even more impressive performance from the opposition to stand a chance.
That kind of performance is exactly what the Pelicans provided tonight.
They shot 49% from the field, kn0cked down 12 of 24 three point attempts (44.7%), missed only 2 of their 13 free throws (84.6%) and turned the ball over a measly 8 times.
Jan 15, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) drives past New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) during the second quarter of game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Charlotte’s starting backcourt of Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum were fantastic all night long. They are drastically different players that mesh beautifully together, and the Pelicans got a heavy dose of their effectiveness. The duo combined for 50 points, 12 assists and 7 three pointers in 83 minutes.
Versatility has become more and more talked about in the NBA space over the past couple of years with many thanks to players like Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green. He may not be having as much success as those two (though nearly no one does), but Nicolas Batum is pretty darn close.
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He is 6′ 8″ and essentially playing the two guard spot on offense while being the primary ball handler and playmaker. He can hit from anywhere on the floor and is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. His size is just as effective on the defensive end, where he guarded everyone on the Pelicans from Jrue Holiday to Tyreke Evans to Anthony Davis.
If Charlotte would have pulled out the win, it would have been tough to give Player of the Game to anyone other than Batum.
The Pelicans’ offense was sharp as a whole tonight, but the work of one man kept it together until the end: Ryan Anderson.
Jan 15, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) shoots over Charlotte Hornets center Frank Kaminsky III (44) during the second quarter of game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Flamethrower wasted no time matching the makes of Walker and Batum. He finished the night with a season high 32 points on only 19 shots, hitting 6 of 8 three pointers in the process.
With the Hornets shooting as well as they were, an average night would not have gotten the job done. Ryno stepped up to the challenge and carried this team to the victory.
When a fan favorite player gets a hot hand like that, the crowd can become a massive factor, and the Smoothie King Center was rocking all night long.
The Pelicans visit the Memphis on Monday night, but after that they play 8 of their next 9 games at home. If they play those games like they did tonight, even if a couple of them turn out to be losing efforts, the fans will have trouble staying away.
Even though the fans there were fantastic, the SKC was far from full tonight, and it is hard to blame the fans. Coming into the game the Pelicans were 12-26 and lingering at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Sure, they are still near the basement, but energizing the fan base with a win tonight was crucial. Many fans are already way past their boiling point with this season’s team.
One win won’t necessarily cure that. A win against the Lakers the other night would have done almost nothing, given just how badly both teams (especially the Pelicans) played. But tonight, the Pelicans played very well.
Jan 7, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) and Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) fight for a rebound during the second half of the game at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hornets win 98-94. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
This game was different.They were not supposed to win this game. They were executing well on defense but the Hornets were just money all night long. But the Pels were able to persevere, put on their big boy pants, and pull it out anyway.
Miraculously, despite being 13 games below .500, only 4 games separate them from the 8th seeded Utah Jazz.
A win like this could be another tease, but maybe, just maybe, the Pelicans are finally starting to find their groove.
They will try to make it three straight victories on Monday afternoon in Memphis, where they will play the Grizzlies in a special Martin Luther King Day matchup (ESPN, 1:30 CST)….