Winning counts, even if it's ugly. Since the 1st half was mostly that, let's just go ahead and fast forward to the 2nd half, where the game was most definitely won.
For once, the Pelicans did not collapse terribly in the third quarter. After a questionable offensive rebound, with Tyreke Evans showing off his Messi-esque feet, the ball found its way into Brian Roberts hands. Thankfully for my blood pressure, Tyreke ran back to the ball and yelled, "hey, right here" to avert disaster. After which, he calmly drove right by Isaiah Thomas for another layup, recording his 19th point. The rest of the quarter was awful and will not be discussed. If you missed it, congratulations.
After a bizarre sequence to begin the fourth quarter, Ryan Anderson buried a three pointer. On the next possession, he missed a wide open (by NBA standards, truly wide open players will be denoted with ALL CAPS) layup. Time and again, the Pelicans missed a number of shots right at the basket. I cannot pinpoint if it is just because they are avoiding contact or what, but the conversion rate in the restricted area must improve for the team to reach their goals.
Once they settled in, the Pelicans slowly pulled away during the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to DeMarcus Cousins fifth foul. After he picked up that foul, the Pelicans went on a 18-7 run. Tyreke Evans continued to attack the basket, resulting in three assists. Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson both made three pointers. Importantly, the Pelicans held the Kings to just 5 field goals in the quarter while forcing 4 turnovers. After Cousins 5th foul, the Pelicans scored on 12 of their 15 possessions -- scoring an extraordinary 27 points.
First Half Notes (since you asked):
- Ryan Anderson was abused by DeMarcus Cousins. Actually the entire team was, throughout the half. Cousins had 16 points and 10 rebounds in 17:50 on the court. The game plan was obviously to single cover Cousins in the post, but the results were not pretty. The beating Ryno took on the low block had predictably negative effects on his offense, where he put up only 2 points and missed his only (WIDE OPEN) three point attempt.
- The Pelicans recorded 17 assists on 22 made field goals. The ball movement was especially impressive in the first quarter as the ball routinely found the open shooter. Al-Farouq Aminu made multiple jumpers and Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon combined to go 3-5 from behind the arc.
- Defense, as defensive efficiency ratings would suggest, was nonexistent. Both teams shot better than 50% from the field. Troubling for the Pelicans was their inability to control the defensive glass. The Kings controlled 8 of their 20 misses to post an absurd 40% offensive rebound rate.
- Evans continues to stuff the stat sheet since his latest return: 25 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds. In his last three games, he is averaging 19 points, 9.3 assists, and 8.3 rebounds. On most teams, paying a player $12 million a season for that production, is considered a bargain.
- Holiday put up a solid stat line again and is really starting to get a feel for the offense. 40 assists versus only 12 turnovers on the road trip, good for a 3.3 Assist-to-Turnover Ratio. That'll do.
- Eric Gordon took a nasty fall in the third quarter. The diagnosis was a hip contusion and the sideline reporter said Gordon may have been available to return. Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
- According to the Sacramento broadcast, the Pelicans intend to stay the night in Northern California. In the morning, they will hold a practice before returning to New Orleans later in the day.