The New Orleans Pelicans have been reborn. Since the return of Jrue Holiday they have gone on a three game winning streak and gotten excellent performances out of almost their entire roster.
The narrative through the first 10 games of this season was that Anthony Davis was wasting his talents. After a 50 point game, a 45 point game, and a string of 30 point games all ending in losses, people were for calling Dell Demps and Alvin Gentry’s heads.
Demps and Gentry are by no means off the hook, but the most recent handful of games suggests the season will be far from the utter failure people began to predict.
The Pelicans’ primary stars struggled with offensive creation early this year. Tim Frazier would run around the top of the key but struggled to find opportunities.
Moore, Hill, and Buddy couldn’t get open shots or create off the dribble. Davis was unbelievable, but many wondered if him scoring 32 every night even mattered when his teammates contributed so little.
However, the return of Jrue Holiday has all but solved the problem of offensive creation.
Nov 22, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) shoots against the defense of Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
He only had 15-4-4 tonight, but anyone watching the game could see what makes him so invaluable.
Jrue has positioned himself as a leader. He commands the offense, signaling where guys need to be and moving with strategy and precision.
No one knows how to set up AD better, and the other guys on the team are catching on.
Jrue didn’t need to put up another 20-7 game tonight since Frazier was on fire.
In a career performance, Timmy dropped 21-14-5-3, shooting 7/12 from the floor, and 3/4 from deep.
Having him and Jrue on the court together sent the Hawks tired defenders sliding across the court in confusion.
Nov 22, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Tim Frazier (2) dribbles against the defense of Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The one player who really didn’t matter tonight was Anthony Davis.
In the Pelicans most dominant performance of the year, their best player contributed just 13 points in 18 minutes. AD left the game with a minor injury in the 1st, only to return in the 4th to see his team protecting a 30-point lead.
The Pelicans shot 52% from the floor, 44% from deep, and 91% from the line. Basically, the Pelicans preformed as a team the way Steph Curry does most nights of the year.
Moore dropped 15 on 6/11 shooting and played great defense on the Hawks screen-abusing shooters. Cunningham had nine, playing great defense and scoring a few pivotal hustle buckets.
Asik had six points and six boards, avoiding any big mistakes and bumping Howard just enough to keep him in check. Jones might have the been the 2nd best player on the team tonight, dropping 17-6 and playing surprisingly reliable defense.
More from Big Easy Believer
- New Orleans Saints: Three biggest questions heading into the offseason
- New Orleans Saints: Three positives to take from playoff loss
- New Orleans Pelicans: Betting guide vs. Sacramento Kings
- New Orleans Saints: Bold predictions for Wild Card Round vs. Vikings
- New Orleans Pelicans: Betting guide in Los Angeles Lakers rematch
Even Solomon Hill, who has been disappointingly inefficient thus far, dropped 11 on 3/4 shooting from deep.
Buddy Hield on the other hand is still figuring things out.
He’s pulling his defender out to the perimeter and taking good shots, but he hasn’t been any to find any rhythm. On the defensive end he made a few embarrassing mistakes and didn’t seem confident he could lock down his assignment.
One player in particular involved a screen in which Davis was supposed to cover down and Buddy was supposed to switch onto his man.
When Davis moved down, Buddy forgot to recover — and the Hawks got a wide open shot. Jrue could be seen offering him some words of encouragement shortly after, another example of his budding leadership.
Tonight was an important night for the Pelicans.
Nov 22, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) controls the ball in front of Atlanta Hawks forward Kris Humphries (43) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Pelicans defeated the Hawks 112-96.Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
They didn’t scrape by, they didn’t outlast their opponent, they BLEW OUT the Hawks convincingly. After a series of stressful nail-biters, a 30 point cushion was a welcome change of pace.
The Pelicans have basically had two types of games this season. Either AD goes off, of his supporting cast goes off.
Now that Jrue is back to captain the offense, it’s just a matter of combining those two types of games together and consistently keeping up the good work they’ve done on defense.
The Pelicans will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow night.
AD and Karl-Anthony Towns will be eager to prove to one another why they are the league’s premier big man; and Buddy will want a chance to show Kris Dunn why he should have gone 5th overall.
Hopefully the Pelicans can continue their recent streak of dominance, and put it all together…..