New Orleans Pelicans Win Again

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Published: November 20, 2015

Boy, that sure overstates the situation, but I really don’t care. I enjoyed that game a ton.

The New Orleans Pelicans soar to 2-11 after defeating the offseason darling San Antonio Spurs 104-90 in a game that may be as symbolically valuable as it is practically valuable.

“It’s our best game, by far. It’s the first kind of complete game we’ve played this season where I thought we were aggressive from the start. I thought we made good decisions. I thought we played at a pace that we like to play at. All of those things were really good. I told the guys this is something we have to try to build on though; we don’t need to take a step backwards either. We have to keep trying to take a step forward.”
— Alvin Gentry

After letting the Spurs get out to an 8-0 lead to start, the Pelicans quickly took a 14-13 lead, and quickly after that took a lead they would never relinquish despite the pesky Spurs getting to within 1 in the fourth quarter. The Spurs lived off the LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard in the first half, with them scoring 22 of the team’s 41 points and playing just 33 total player-minutes, leaving just 19 points scored by the other players in the other 87 player-minutes.

Offsetting that, Davis had just 4 points in the first half, and the rest of the team delivered 44 as the Spurs limited Davis. In the second half, the Pelicans scored 56 . . . 16 by Davis and 40 by the rest of the team.

The Pelicans did exactly what they had to do on offense, which was find ways to get Davis involved and for Davis just to not allow the Spurs to limit him. He came right out after the half sending that message. On the other side, Parker started off the second half hot, and he was instrumental in the Spurs third quarter surge (which they won 33-30). Still, the Pelicans stayed aggressive on offense, attacking the basket, and they were rewarded with points rather than free throws.

Most importantly, they stayed aggressive on defense. There were some errors of effort and maybe of judgment, but they were rooted, at least charitably, in the aggression that served them well. Davis’ block of Aldridge late, then hustling to knock the deflected ball off Aldridge to complete the turnover was a key play we’ll all see.

“Basketball is a game of plays. Certain plays each game can make a difference. Before he shot the ball, I felt I was in good position to block it. Even if I did, I would have forced a quick shot. These plays can fire up the crowd and change the outcome of games.”
— Anthony Davis

My favorite was a clean-but-solid hit on Mills by Smith as they went for a loose ball. Smith was going for the ball but was fully prepared for the contact. He got called for the foul, but the attitude of the play was emblematic of the mood of the night.

Most importantly, the defensive aggression was not that of a salivating carnivore, and it was anchored to smart play. The Spurs’ key guards were limited to just 27 points tonight. The pursuit and switches were consistent, smart, and solid. Prior to one fourth quarter miss, Smith rand from under the basket to the corner, around the arc to the top of the key, hit a screen for Parker who charged to the basket a little outside the paint. Anderson was there to force him off just a bit, Parker couldn’t Parker, and the Pelicans got the rebound. A few plays later, Parker got called for a technical after a foul was correctly called on the Pelican defending him. The frustration of Parker speaks volumes about the Pelicans’ perimeter defense tonight. If Ryan Anderson is any part of frustration by Parker with the Pelicans’ defense, it’s a good night at the office.

Last season showed us that this second win in 13 games can be very, very important, but this game may be a sign not just of the defense that those paying attention have seen coming together over the past several games, but also of the attitude getting right.

Which brings me to my last point. I end up reading a good bit of text about the Pelicans, and it comes from sources of various quality. There’s one thing I want to make very clear: This team is not intentionally losing (or going to lose) games to secure a more valuable draft pick when they have a player like Davis who also has them on a clock. Building the winning culture is far more important than securing assets of highly uncertain value to use in trade or to secure a player who may not be able to contribute until it’s too late to convince Davis to sign. This team needs to do what it takes to win, particularly with the pieces they have. I’m not sure how anyone can watch this game, or some of the more recent losses, and conclude that Davis would be ok with an organization that was trying to lose. Even if there was a “bigger picture” from a certain perspective, there is a “bigger-er picture.”

It may be fun to talk about or dream of, but this is serious business to these guys. I’m all for fun and fandom, but in all seriousness, this game, and a hundred other things, all indicate that this is just not happening.

The Pelicans fittingly host the Suns Sunday (Saints have a bye) at 5 pm CT (UTC -6) before allowing them to host the Pelicans in return Wednesday in a double-barreled attempt to the beat the closest thing to a streak this team has seen this season.

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