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Pelicans crack as Pacers ratchet up pressure
The Pelicans came out strong with their guards attacking the paint, getting fouled and finding shooters. Within a few minutes, they had put Hibbert on the bench with foul trouble, made Mahinmi look out of his depth at the rim, and were rolling to a nice 16 point lead.
Then the Pacers got Hibbert back on the floor, their defense tightened as they shifted Paul George to Eric Gordon and with Jason Smith fouling everything in site and Ryan Anderson not available, the Pelicans began to struggle to find their easy looks. The Pacers, however, just kept executing, chipping away, drilling open threes, and stole the lead in the end.
I’m not upset by the effort – the team is still a work and progress and figuring things out – but let’s start with the Pelicans who formed their Bomber Wing tonight:
24 points on 18 shots, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and a pair of turnovers from the new starting point guard. The most important two elements of his game, though? He was the only Pelican during the last four minutes of that game who looked completely composed and took the shots that were presented to him. As the Pacers mounted their comeback – it was Jrue anchoring the penetration and the scoring to keep the Pelicans from falling out of the game. Gordon was the most explosive to the rim – Davis had some vital plays around the rim – but Jrue Holiday was steady and composed. I had no issues with him starting the attack.
Defensively too – I can’t tell you how happy I felt to see the Pelicans lead guard successfully cutting off options available to the opponent’s lead guard. Jrue showed quick feet and anticipation, jumping pick and rolls and recovering – pushing Pacer guards away from the middle of the floor. It was a huge upgrade.
He’s clearly healthy and a monster driving to the rim. He still had a couple shots with his patented cross-over-sidestep-deep jumper – miss! routine, but I didn’t care. He was burying catch and shoot jumpers, driving and attacking, and gave us everything we were hoping for when we traded for him. 25 points on 19 shots for Eric, including 3-5 from deep and nine trips to the free throw line.
He’s damn serious about this season. He was trying to make an impact from the start of the game, fighting gamely against David West in the paint, barking at officials, and talking non-stop. He attacked the basket more freely in situations where last year he would have passed the ball. He also was attacking Scola and David West off the dribble, blowing by both of his slower-footed opponents. His first step is very quick, and that was usually enough to get his opponent on his hip so he could get a shot off. He did miss a few shots I expected he would finish normally, but he also put down a monster alley oop and was operating in the flow of the offense.
Defensively, it’s crazy how quickly he can cover ground. His ability to show and recover on the pick and roll was excellent tonight – and if he wasn’t stuck playing long minutes with Stiemsma and Onuaku, who were a bit on the clueless side when it came to rotations, the Pelicans interior defense would have been very tight with him sealing cracks. Davis finished with 20 points on 20 shots, 12 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 blocks and 38 minutes.
- The question was answered as to which guard was going to be bench-bound. Austin Rivers didn’t see a minute of gameplay, as Brian Roberts claimed backup point guard minutes.
- Well, maybe they weren’t back-up point guard minutes. Roberts spent very little time as the primary ball handler out there – as the second unit mostly started with the ball in Evans hands.
- I was worried about Gordon dealing with Hibbert. I was focusing on the wrong guard. Evans kept getting himself into trouble when he drove – and ended up late in the game settling for mid-range jumpers. It goes without saying that is not playing to his strengths.
- Jason Smith did not play a smart game. When he was spacing the floor from mid-range the offense was a thing of beauty. Then he started fouling everything. Hibbert, West, George, women and children in the crowd, Tom Benson, Frank Vogel. You name it, he fouled it.
- I’m not sure I like the new Mascot. He looks a little like a demented Yeti. Actually, the first thing that entered my mind was “Owlbear” but that’s totally a Dungeons & Dragons reference and I’m way too cool to talk about that.
- Three players with 20 points or more. Everyone else put up 21 with 12 coming from the bench. With Smith in the starting line-up, Anderson out 1-3 weeks with a bone chip in his foot, the offensive power of the bench is severely impaired.
- Lance Stephenson has a bit of crazy in him – and throws a lot of elbows. He put on a clinic, however, every time Anthony Morrow checked into the game. Morrow simply couldn’t get free.
- Is it too early to beg Monty to try Withey out – just so we don’t have to see much more of Stiemsma and Arinze Onuaku?
- Evans did spend a good 12-13 minutes guarding small forwards tonight – and he did a decent job. I felt bad for him a few times covering Paul George, who simply never stops moving.
- Aminu had some nice defensive moments tonight.
Pelicans matched the Pacers with points in the paint and had 8 more fast break points than their opponent. The first number is good. The second actually needs to be bigger. The team ran some in the first half, but in the second, that game became a grinder. This team can’t play at that pace.
Next game is Friday against the Magic!