Pelicans Prove Basketball Without AD Can Still Be Fun, Beat Raptors 100-97

Published: February 23, 2015

Similar to their game in Toronto about six weeks ago, New Orleans entered the 4th quarter facing a seven point deficit to one of the best teams in the NBA. In both instances, the team was under-manned, playing without Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis for both, also without Ryan Anderson tonight. Nonetheless, the Pelicans were able to overcome a certain talent deficit and beat the Eastern Conference’s #2 seed for the second time this season, winning 100-97 behind a true MVP performance from the bench.

That’s right, the Pelicans’ bench. A bench that, with a completely healthy roster, would have looked completely different. Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, and newly acquired Norris Cole played 75 minutes in total; with Holiday, Davis, and Anderson Healthy, those three would have combined for maybe 15-20 minutes. Instead, those three players made a ridiculous 69% of their field goal attempts (22-32) for a total of 49 points; for comparison’s sake, the team’s starting lineup combined to score just 45 points. Babbitt made 4 of his 5 three-point attempts, Ajinca made each of his final 5 field goal attempts, and Cole made countless big shots for New Orleans tonight. Without each of their efforts, Toronto wins this game easily tonight.

The part of the Pelicans’ performance tonight that should not be overlooked was the change in defensive intensity in the second half. In the first two quarters, the Raptors made 20 of their 42 field goal attempts, rebounded 10 of their 22 misses, and attempted 16 free throws (some a direct result of those offensive boards). The second half was an entirely different story, as Toronto shot just 35.7% from the field, including a horrific 5-26 outside of the paint. The Raptors missed a few open shots, but the Pelicans also did a much better job on the defensive glass, holding Toronto to just 6 offensive rebounds compared to 24 defensive rebounds for New Orleans. The result was only 5 second chance points for the Raptors in the second half, a crucial statistic considering both how strong they usually are on the offensive glass along with how thin the Pelicans were down low without Davis or Anderson.

Another key to the game was turnover efficiency for both teams. The Pelicans’ third quarter was downright miserable from a turnover perspective, as they coughed the ball up more times (9) than the Raptors did all game long (8). For the game, New Orleans totaled 17 turnovers, an especially uninspiring number when considering that Toronto isn’t a team known for forcing them in bunches. However, despite this turnover disparity, both teams finished with the same number of points off of turnovers with 13 apiece. This area of the game could have gone much worse for the Pelicans, so props to them for not giving up on any plays and playing focused on defense.

Other notes:

  • Monty Williams mentioned after the game that Tyreke was playing sick tonight. No matter what you think of his play, Evans has played through his share of illnesses and minor injuries throughout his Pelicans tenure, and that is admirable. Also admirable? His 12 assists and his first made 3-pointer in two weeks.
  • Eric Gordon struggled shooting the ball tonight, but it was good to see him have the confidence and willingness to shoot it so frequently from long range (he finished 3-9 from beyond the arc). Catch-and-shoot 3-pointers are Gordon’s specialty, so look for the Pels to continue to find ways to create open looks for him of this variety.
  • For the second straight game, Omer Asik played a major role in the Pelicans’ victory. His defense and rebounding were both instrumental with two key big men sidelined, and his 14 points on 6 shots is pretty much pure profit relative to what is expected of him offensively. A key defensive stop of an attacking Kyle Lowry down the stretch was the cherry on top of a great overall defensive effort from New Orleans’ starting center.
  • The Pelicans’ second unit did more than just score. Luke Babbitt tallied 8 rebounds, Norris Cole dished out 6 assists (only turning it over once, and that one turnover was a pass to a corner 3 that didn’t quite get there), and Ajinca collected 9 rebounds of his own (4 offensive). When players who wouldn’t typically get a ton of minutes not only score, but help out in other ways as well, it gives such a huge boost to the rest of the team.
  • Really good team defense on the Lowry-DeRozan starting back court duo for the Raptors. The two combined for 36 points on 34 shots; in fact, apart from James Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, no Toronto player had a particularly efficient offensive game. As Monty Williams noted in his post-game press conference, tonight’s game truly was a team effort. Job well done.

The Pelicans look to make it three wins in a row on Wednesday night at home against the Brooklyn Nets. With everything we have seen from this team so far this season, who are we to doubt that they can do it? Get to the Smoothie King Center and cheer them on to victory!


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