Only a night removed from a brutal, hard fought loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Martin Luther King Day, the Pelicans (14-27) returned home to New Orleans and were able to defend home court against the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-30) by a score of 114-99.
From the get-go, things were not looking good.
The young Wolves were able to score a whopping 38 points in the first period alone, a figure that usually spells disaster for the opposing teams chances.
However, the Pelicans fixed up their defense’s holes in a jiffy and held Minnesota to only 37 points in the next two quarters combined (including a miniscule 15 in the third!) The rotations, the hustle and the energy were all apparent for most of the final three quarters, a pleasant sight to say the least.
The play that encompassed all of that hard work came right at the end of the third quarter. In the waning seconds of the period, Jrue Holiday knocked down a jumper from right above the elbow. The Wolves then lazily tried to set up for a decent heave before the buzzer.
Jan 19, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
But Dante Cunningham had other plans.
He jumped the lob that was headed towards mid-court, slashed through the baffled first line of defense, and was able to convert a lay in right at the buzzer to increase the Pels lead to 7. At one point, the Pelicans trailed by 17 points. After a play like that, it was hard to see the game falling out of their hands. It was just one of those moments where the game felt complete.
Speaking of hands, there was some bad news from tonight’s game. It was announced after the game that guard Eric Gordon broke the ring finger on his shooting hand. The Advocate reporter Scott Kushner supplied an update soon after the game:
Hopefully it will not be that long, but the absence of Gordon could not come at a worse time. The Pelicans are about to rip off a critical home stand, and it would have been nice to finally see the nearly complete roster give it their all. However, those plans are once again on hold.
If Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday play as well over the next couple of weeks as they did tonight, the Pels will be just fine.
Davis led all scorers with a clean 35 points on 22 shots, with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks as well. Whether it was from the paint, the charity stripe or the three point line, AD was getting everything to fall tonight. It was good to see him assert himself against a team that the Pels should have no trouble beating. That kind of effort needs to stick around if they hope to climb back into the playoff picture with wins against better teams.
Jan 19, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) dunks over Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Timberwolves 114-99. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Another night of basketball meant another night for Jrue Holiday to show that he is back and better than ever. He finished with 19 points, and tallied 9 assists with only 1 turnover to his name. Davis and Holiday have the ball in their hands a lot. Tonight, Holiday’s lone turnover was the only one between the two. It is hard to imagine this team ever going down with that kind of efficiency from its two best players.
Turnovers were still relevant tonight, and Tyreke Evans was a big reason why. 4 of the Pels’ 15 giveaways were courtesy of Evans. As a result he only played 21 minutes, including zero in the fourth quarter.
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The decision by Gentry was effective tonight, but that does not mean an Evans-less lineup is what the Pelicans need, especially with Gordon set to miss some time.
Hopefully Evans will be able to limit his mistakes and keep the Pelicans offense in a rhythm, because it was certainly in a good one tonight.
The Pelicans have one 3 out of their last 4 games, an encouraging start to a critical stretch of games. They begin a 6 game home stand on Thursday night against the Detroit Pistons beginning at 7 P.M. CST………