It is hard for any team to win with two of their key players out of commission. The Pelicans have even struggled when both Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans are available. Tonight, with both of those men on the bench, the shorthanded Pelicans gave it their all.
And they came out with a victory.
The Pels (17-28) defeated the Sacramento Kings (20-26) 114-105 on Thursday night, their fourth win in the last five games, and the sixth in their last eight.
In the absence of Davis and Evans, Ryan Anderson needed to step up and fill it up, and boy did he deliver.
Jan 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) shoots the ball over Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) during the second half at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans won 114-105. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Anderson matched a career high with 36 points, 30 of which came in the first half. He gave Kings rookie Willie Cauley-Stein all he could handle and more, whether it was freeing himself up for an open three, spinning to the basket from the low post, or knocking down his patented step back jump shot.
The Sacramento native made sure his hometown team was heading back west without a ‘W’.
The entire Pelicans offense was flowing in the midst of Anderson’s first half barrage. 10 of the first 11 baskets were assisted on, 40% of the night’s total of 25. Norris Cole and Jrue Holiday were finding their teammates with relative ease for most of the night.
The offense screeched to a halt late in the fourth quarter as the Pels tried to preserve their lead, but for the most part the ball was moving well.
The duo combined for 18 assists and only 3 turnovers, a more than ideal output from the guys with the keys to the offense.
With Evans out of the starting lineup, a new name had to take his place: Bryce Dejean-Jones. He managed to put up a solid 14 points in his first start and played with an edge that would be welcome on any NBA roster.
He was shaky from the free throw line (1-6), but we can let that slide for now. The performance was nothing special, but the coaching staff may be content with letting Tyreke get the rest he needs to heal if Jones can continue to play like he did tonight.
Jan 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones (31) dribbles the ball against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans won 114-105. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
DeMarcus Cousins has been on a tear as of late, but the Pelicans were finally able to slow him down.
26 points is still a solid total, but it is less than half of what he managed to score against the Charlotte Hornets the other night: an NBA season high 56.
Asik, Perkins and Ajinca all contributed to slowing him down in the post, but the entire team was locked in on the defensive end in their efforts to deny him the ball. Not allowing him to be the most dominant player on the court was key for the Pelicans to come out on top.
There are a few basketball plays that really get me pumped up, and I cannot really explain why.
Omer Asik dunks are one of them. He threw down the Turkish Hammer 4 times tonight, needing just one more slam for a double-double.
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I was pulling for Anderson to beat his career high all night long, but I have to admit: by game’s end, wanted the ball in Asik’s hands.
Even without hitting double digit points, Asik’s effectiveness in the paint against the bigger bodies on Sacramento was apparent.
The victory puts the Pelicans a mere 3 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. If the Pelicans keep playing this well, that gap will continue to shrink.
They take the court in the Smoothie King Center again on Saturday night in a very winnable matchup against the Brooklyn Nets (6 P.M. CST)…..