I would have helped the Heat "fans" to the exits last night, but their bandwagon had already left midway through the 4th.
Anthony Davis and His Supporting Cast Take Down the Champs
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!
With all the conjecture about the Holiday trade ..etc.....The constant "Elephant in the room " is Eric Gordon. ..Burke and Gordon together would be undersized and over matched every night....Holiday is an All Star.......enough said
Great win. Good to see the first recap in which Brian Robert isnt trashed. I think i get as annoyed with all the roberts trashing as 504ever when Gordon is mentioned in a trade... You have to remember he is NOT a starter, but would love to see him back in a reserve role. He got heart and is never afraid of taking a big shot (and those floters around the paint are money). Also having a 95% FT shooter is a good thing to have to close games.
Wasnt it great to see a full arena? lets hope NOLA people would start filling the arena every game, not just the ones against major cities teams. The intensity of a home court advantage is a big thing...sad we havent had one of thse for a long time now...
No way is the Holiday deal a good deal. Have you been following Trey Burke? He is going to be just as good if not better than Holiday and if we had drafted him we would still have this year's pick in a deep draft.
@Michael McNamara @kwilly Michael, two lottery picks for a career 43% shooter who shot 43% during his "all-star" season and 41% during the playoffs? really? And if you already know that the 11th pick will be a "fringe" player, you should be making millions on wall street rather than writing for this website.
@Michael McNamara @kwilly Hey Michael I am very curios to look at trades over the last 20 years that are similar to our Jhrue Holliday deal. My view is Dell went into the trade talks with the same attitude as signing Terke. Win at all costs. I love Jhrue but how many players have been traded for 2 first round picks? Sometimes you have to pay more to get what you want and I believe we did but I don't think that means we made a bad deal. Please let me know what you think.
@kwilly You mean the guy shooting 38% from the field with below average defense, rebound rates and assist rates? Yeah, you can have him and whatever fringe player the 11th pick gets you this year. I will take Holiday. And before you give me the 'he's young' argument. Holiday was better at 21 (Burke's current age) and was an All-Star at 22, so......
@kwilly @Michael McNamara You mean the guy with a 13.9 PER this year that is below avg in every 2-guard category except scoring? Man, you fall in love with names. And even if I grant you that Thompson is a slightly above average player, he is still the exception, not the rule.
Klay himself was sandwiched in between Cole Aldrich and Meyers Leonard. Before that? Terrance Williams! Acie Law, Fran Vasquez, Jeroime Moiso, Kendrick Brown - other 11th picks in the 2000's. At best, it resulted in some fringe starters like: Jared Jeffries, Michael Pietrus, Biendris, JJ Reddick, and Jerryd Bayless.
Like I said, a below avg PG and a fringe starter at best, scrub at worst. No thanks, I will take Jrue
Second, there haven't been many trades like this because 1.) Not many guys with 4 yrs left on their contract at such a young age have ever been traded. 2.) There haven't been as many drafts in NBA history that was viewed as being as bad as the 2013 draft. 3.) All-Star players, in general, are rarely traded the following year.
I think Dell saw a horrible class and knew he was going to get Tyreke or Iggy and he thought that this pick in 2014 would be somewhere between 10 and 16, in a draft he viewed as being 6 or 7 deep, max. I don't think it was a win now thing, as much as just the best move to make mathematically.
I think most fans are in favor of the trade now, and in one or two years it will be pretty much unanimous.
Move Gordon, Pierre Jackson and cash to Houston for Omer Asik and a sign and a trade for Jordan Hamilton. ...
If they can't move Gordon, that'll probably be his role next year. I'm pretty sure Dell will move Gordon this summer. .It may take movi
Yeah, the CURRENT problem with Eric Gordon is the money. This year he is durable, productive and has worked on aspects of his game. If he was getting something like $5M-$7.5M/year, there is no Eric Gordon conversation. And, if his contract proves untradable or so bad what you have to take back isn't enough of an improvement, he stays.
After this year he has 2 years left, 1 if a miracle occurs and he opts out of his option year. [The only way I see that happening is if the Pelicans go to Eric next year and say 'you opt out and we sign you to $Y/Xyears and agree to not trade you for Z years. Otherwise, if we can, we ship you out as an expiring and improve the team, your gone. Sure thing or risk going to a crappy team? You decide.']
After seeing Tyreke and Davis on the floor with Babbitt the last couple of games, all I can think of is, "How much would Ryan Anderson be feasting while playing with these two?" Just seeing how much space Tyreke and Anthony have with a poor man's Ryan Anderson (Babbitt) out there is really eye opening.
I still think more props should go to Aminu. He kept Lebron from driving into the lane, and we all know he can't shoot with a man in his face. Great, great game by Aminu.
@RyanCaz He did have a great game, but his problem has always been consistency.
I really hope this game causes Heat "fans" who were born and raised in Nola to crawl back into their holes, do some soul searching, and come back out Pelicans fans. Those people are so annoying. I also really hope this gets more people excited about Pelicans Basketball in New Orleans. Win or lose, this franchise deserves a passionate fan base
@lsucpolk If you ever are at the games hit my email up firstname.lastname@example.org so I can buy you a drink. I have to ask sports bars to turn on the Pelicans. They will show hockey on the TV before a Pels game.
Such a great game to be in the Arena/Center for. The bandwagon "fans" were everywhere and it was great for the team to shut them up and allow the fans to gloat a bit. I'd love to do it again against the Clippers.
The chemistry between Evans and Davis is beautiful to watch. It's easy to get biased by the most recent performance, but nearly everyone on the team made a statement on why they should be here next season. I'm salivating at the possibilities if the core remains relatively healthy going forward.
Fantastic coaching job by Monty tonight. Highlights include the timely time-outs and the counterintuitive insertion of Ajinca that worked out brilliantly. Bringing in Morrow when Babbitt got exhausted was another great move.
Aminu gets a game ball for his work on James. Davis did equally well on Bosh, which is not as tough of an assignment. I thought the defense was great tonight. If we want to be a playoff team, we probably need to keep Aminu for challenges like this one.
There should be no hesitation in calling Davis a superstar. Zero. Proud and loud!
I didn't go because I am a greedy man who doesn't like to listen to bandwagon fans in my arena. But, on TV I could hear the crowd helping out our boys all game.
Good observation about Monty. He called a great game tonight. Ajinca in the 4th was a nice wrinkle to throw at a team with no size on a back to back.
The biggest thrill was the way the house "turned," though. I swore the game was on its way to being like the infamous Lakers game last year when Kobe flipped on the switch in the 4th quarter. There were tons of Heat camp followers in the house (I was sitting in a cluster of them, though I have to say that they're not obnoxious about it like the Laker-trash, just being front-runners is all. All they could talk about was if Dwayne Wade was in the game, how much they'd be dominating--they even questioned the King's heart every so often.)
They made nearly enough noise to drown out the N.O fans when there was a Heat scoring play, but at the end, when A.D. banked the shot for the and-1, there was a moment when we may look back and point to as the moment that N.O "roze up" and owned the Pels for life. Time will tell.
I'm hoping it was the beginning of the Pels no longer being the ugly step-sister of the Saints and getting the fans coming in to see them and not the visiting royalty. If the team rides AD till the end of the season, they should have the ingredient of confidence to go along with an emerging offensive identity that could make them a factor.
Confident and aggressive play seems to be growing here of late...At this rate, 35 wins might be do-able...27 wins to 35 wins given the injury situation not too bad I guess...
This team is going to really battle for a playoff spot next year. AD is all grown up at 21 and it would be pretty hard to stop this team from contending just on the strength of that.