What a Game: Pelicans @ Thunder

Published: February 6, 2015

Instant Classic tonight, folks.  It had all the right ingredients for a game you’ll remember all year, and I’m seriously pumped.  It had heroes.  It had goats.  It had amazing shots. It had multiple “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!?” moments.  I mean, holy shit, Tyreke Evans.  He opened the game like a spastic monkey dribbling nowhere and losing the ball repeatedly.  Then he morphed into an unstoppable incarnation of the pick and roll, then had a brain fart at the end of the 2nd, jacking a shot with 10 seconds left and giving the Thunder a free shot.  Then he destroyed people through the third, got a god-awful inexplicable shot clock violation, helped Davis swagger like a monster by feeding him some sick alley-oops, was so terrified of having to shoot end of game free throws he hurled an outlet pass straight at Kevin Durant, giving the Thunder chance number 8,278,261,231 to go ahead, and then when forced to take free throws to seal the game a few moments later, bricked both.  And last, he held the ball for more than 5 seconds before inbounding it to Davis for the final shot, though it wasn’t called. Wow.  He gave Davis a huge heart-felt hug at the end when Davis sank his first NBA three pointer, hitting a walk off game winner.

Oh, and that three was sick.  Davis hit it fading left, had to double clutch to get it under Durant’s block, and was a good 5-6 feet behind the line.  The result was that he saved both Evans and Pondexter from goat status – Evans had the two failures at the end and Pondexter had an awful foul on Westbrook as he took and missed a three with 12 seconds left and the Thunder down 3.

Davis, however, was sublime.  Let’s get to the bullets.

  • Before anyone blows a gasket about the above, Evans was undoubtedly a massive positive overall.  He has some terrible brain farts at times, but he really did run an absolutely unstoppable pick and roll where he found cutters, shooters, and the roll man all in equal measure while racking up 16 assists.  He put up a man’s triple dip with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 16 assists.  No lame-o 10-10-10 lines for Reke!
  • Anthony Davis went for 41 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks.  He had two absolutely disgusting one-handed alley-oops and kept drawing fouls – keeping the Thunder from being the only team in the bonus.  More, Davis happily took on the challenge of guarding Durant in the second half, hit the game winner, and those weren’t even my favorite moment of the game from him.  With about 5 minutes left to go in the game, with the Thunder snapping at the Pelicans heels, Davis took a pass out of a pick and roll, rose and nailed a jumper to forestall the run, and was backpedaling before the shot even snapped net.  The camera cut to him briefly as the Thunder in-bound the ball, and you saw him, just for an instant, with a little self-satisfied smirk, before he licked his fingers and went into a defensive crouch.  That smile said it all, “I got this.  Nobody can handle me.”  Over the last couple weeks, Davis’ confidence has met his talent.  He’s a superstar and knows it.  Look out league.
  • To steal a phrase from Bill Simmons, Westbrook is the evolutionary Allen Iverson.  He’s what Iverson would have been if he was 6’3 and 200 lbs.  He’s a sick combination of off-the-dribble brilliance, confidence in a streaky jumper, and unbridled aggression.  And a preening style that turns some people off.  The only person stopping Westbrook tonight was Westbrook, and he generally stayed out of his own way.
  • I should point out that Durant had a hyper-efficient game going until Davis took over as the primary guy guarding him in the second half.  Although Durant was able to shake him for some dagger threes at the end of the game, he was 5-7 for 15 points at the half and ended with 27 points on 26 shots.
  • Kendrick Perkins is a disaster.  He handed the Pelicans that game.  He also made Jimmer mad in the first quarter by fouling him overly hard.  Jimmer immediately came back next play and stuck a jumper in his face.
  • Never seen a team get a technical foul for not waiting for the refs to indicate a timeout.  The Thunder strutted out onto the court after a big Durant three, but none of the refs had seen or acknowledged that the Pelicans had called a timeout yet.  The Pelicans were able to turn that into a free timeout as confusion reigned and a technical free throw.
  • Having Pondexter out there to space those pick and rolls made them so much more effective.  The Pelicans were running a beautiful motion PNR where Davis set the screen and rolled down the middle with Tyreke going down the left side of the paint.  At the same time Anderson, who started in the left corner, would flare up to the wing to give Evans a passing lane while on the right side Pondexter would set a backpick on Gordon’s man, Gordon would flare to the right wing, and then Pondexter would flare to the corner.  It’s what Mike and I dreamed about on the podcast before the season started.  Tyreke had options everywhere.
  • Adams is going to be a solid center.  He needs, however, to stop sprinting down court looking back at the ball-handler on offense.  Twice a Pelican simply stopped in front of him and drew a charge because he was completely oblivious of where he was going.
  • The Pels started the game with a few traditional post ups for Davis, but the Thunder shaded the entire defense his way.  Ibaka would meet him and Adams would cross the paint to provide a second line of defense.  This prevented Davis from doing much – so Monty scrapped it, put him in a series of side pick and rolls, and late in the game, used those side pick and roll formations as fakes that let Davis get room, catch and attack in two – you guessed it – traditional post ups.  In both situations, he took Ibaka through the paint and scored easily.
  • Waiters and Jackson are a problem for the Thunder.  Ibaka, Durant and Westbrook are so amazing, but Waiters and Jackson only take pull-up midrange jumpers or look like Evans at his worst going to the rim.  I still can’t figure out why on earth you would go out and get Waiters and play him over Anthony Morrow.  Inexplicable.
  • Pondexter got the unenviable job of guarding Durant in the first half and then Westbrook in the second.  He must have tortured a puppy to death or something in a previous life.  He is a leader on this team though.  In the second, he ran down the court, pointing out assignments and then made a talking symbol with his hands.  It’s strange to think of Pondexter as a through and through veteran, but those years in Memphis clearly changed him and showed him what winning defensive basketball means.
  • I think Anderson read Michael McNamara’s article about free throws.  Because he was drawing them on every little bullshit wily veteran move he could.  The sort that would piss me off royally if I was a Thunder fan.
  • Anyone notice that Monty cut short a pending Tyreke Hero Ball moment with less than a minute to go?  The pick from Davis failed and Reke was getting all set to drive against a set defense when Monty simply called a time out and walked out on the floor.   It was so nice to see that.
  • With this win, the Pelicans lock down the tie-breaker over the Thunder this season.  I’m not convinced it will matter, but if the team continues to gel and take off, it could really be important.

Let’s hope tonights game didn’t take too much out of them as the return home to face Chicago tomorrow!


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