Anthony Davis and His Supporting Cast Take Down the Champs

Published: March 22, 2014

Coming into this game, we knew that Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans would show up, but it was going to take more than just those two to take down the two-time defending champs. When word came late that Eric Gordon would miss tonight’s game, there was legitimate concern that the Pelicans just wouldn’t have the firepower to defeat Miami. In the first half, Davis did his thing and Tyreke got going late as well, but the role players struggled. Morrow and Babbitt got looks, but were just a tad bit off, and Monty never took Ajinca off the bench.

Flash forward to the second half, and the Pelicans couldn’t have won the game without them. Davis had 16 in the second half to go with 8 big rebounds, but as the Heat mounted their comeback it was the reserves who made the difference tonight. Morrow and Babbitt combined to go 4-6 from three while Ajinca played the entire 4th quarter and scored 7 points, including dunks on back to back possessions to extend the lead to 16. Rivers played most of the quarter as well, scoring 6 points on three shots as he attacked the paint mercilessly.

Anthony Davis has become a superstar (yeah, I said it!), but even the best players in this league need a supporting cast to take the pressure off against great teams, and these guys did that tonight. The Pelicans shot 60% in the second half against a Miami team that regained their focus after getting rattled early in the second quarter. And every guy who took the court in that second half played a major role in the win. Al-Farouq Aminu played all but 14 seconds in the second half, and defended Lebron James on every possession. Lebron scored 15 points, but it took him 11 shots and 14 possessions to get there, and that was because of Aminu. Brian Roberts only hit one shot in the half, but it was a key three-pointer and he also had a team high 4 assists despite playing less than 12 minutes.

All in all, it was a team effort that got the Pelicans a 105-95 win tonight, and you could easily make the argument that this was the best win of the season. What made it so great, though, was that everybody had a hand in this win. This was a team that could have easily thrown in the towel weeks ago, and the organization could have made keeping the draft pick their main priority. But instead, everybody kept working and winning remained the sole objective. And as a result, we have this game tonight for this young team to hang their hat on and build off of moving forward. My feeling is that sooner than later, games like this will become the norm for this talented, hard-working squad.

Other Notes and Observations

– The ball movement was far better tonight than usual, and it needed to be in order to get the win. In the first half, we saw a lot of the iso ball that the team has played of late, but that just doesn’t work against the Heat’s defensive scheme. Eventually, drive and kicks became the norm and the result was an explosive second half that featured 14 assists on the 24 made shots.

– Al-Farouq Aminu ran three miles tonight, BY FAR the most of any Pelicans or Heat player according to SportVU. He chased Lebron around all night, then crashed the boards when the shot went up, and raced down on the other end for fast breaks when we ran. It’s nights like this that give you pause to the idea of just letting him go this summer. Is an upgrade on the wing needed? Definitely. But that doesn’t mean that Aminu can’t fill a role on this squad.

– AD over the last eight games (scored 28 or more in all of them): 32 ppg, 13.6 rebs, 57% shooting. And Tyreke Evans in his last 10 (9 of which came as a starter) : 22.1 ppg, 5.9 assists, 5.7 boards, 54.5% from the field. And specifically tonight, when Tyreke had 8 assists and zero turnovers against a team that lives off of creating mistakes and getting easy buckets, well that was just huge for this team. In March, those two guys have been the best combo in the league, bar none.

– Let’s give some credit to Monty where it is due. He started Babbitt tonight, as the Heat had no true center, and then didn’t put Stiemsma back into the rotation in the second half after an awful performance in the first. Does it take Monty a little while to see what sometimes appears so obvious? Yes. But he is seemingly willing to admit he is wrong and do what it takes to give the team the best chance to win. Tonight, he stuck with Austin through most of the 4th quarter and subbed him in late when they played offense/defense. He also saw a chance for Ajinca to contribute and put him in position to do so. I would venture to say that after AD and Tyreke, Monty has been the third most improved Pelican since the All-Star break.

– The thing I love about Anthony Morrow is that he always has the confidence to take a big shot, even if he has been off all night. If Darius Miller had Morrow’s confidence, he would be in this rotation. Goes to show how much of this game is played between the ears.

– For a while there tonight, I though one of the Morris twins was wearing a Michael Beasley jersey. Just as the Heat looked like they were dead offensively, Beasley rose like a Phoenix and scored 12 in the second quarter to keep them in the game. He finished with 16 points on 8-12 shooting, and with the way the Heat have been struggling lately, they might need him as early as the 2nd round.

– The Pelicans moved to 18-11 against the East, with just one game remaining (Monday at home against Brooklyn). I don’t think it would be controversial to say that, if healthy, the Pels would be better than anyone outside of Indy and Miami in the East. Heck, even with all the injuries, they still might be.

– Gordon didn’t play tonight, but it doesn’t sound like the injury will keep him out for too long. Obviously, the team doesn’t need him the way they need AD and Tyreke, but the more games he plays, the better his trade value this summer. So, get well Eric!

– I felt like the refs really let a lot of things go in this game, and that probably benefitted the Pelicans more than the Heat. The Achilles heel of this Pelicans defense is how often they send opponents to the free throw line. Only 17 FTA’s for the Heat tonight, and just three for Lebron.

– The Heat do such a terrific job of ending quarters. They always give themselves a chance for a 2-for-1 and they also seem to get great looks. It is little things like this that the Pelicans will need to master as they get older and climb the Western Conference ladder.

– With 13 games to go, it looks like the Pelicans will be giving either the 10th or 11th pick to the Sixers. For those who still question the Holiday trade, go and take a look at some of the guys projected to go there. Personally, I have never wavered; I do that trade 100 out of 100 times.

– In the last five quarters, the Pelicans have scored 147 points and shot 57% from the field. What has been different in those five quarters? Well, Luke Babbitt has played in each of them after not having played for most of the month. Is Babbitt that good? No, but the space he creates allows AD and Tyreke wreak havoc on defenses.

– I feel like a winner at the Academy Awards, “I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.” Honestly, a lot of superlatives to go around tonight, all well deserved.

– Tyreke missed the Grizzlies game and the Pels lost a heartbreaker. AD missed the Toronto game and the Pels fell late. Does anybody have any doubt that if they had played we would be talking about a team that was 7-1 in their last 8?

– 4 out of the next 5 at home before the closing stretch gets really brutal. As great as this win was, wouldn’t beating the Clippers on Wednesday top it? Could be a memorable week!


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