My wife and I stayed home tonight to watch the game. Having a baby in the house sometimes changes your priorities. While I watched the second half in the living room, she held our little bundle of joy in the nursery. Toward the end of the third quarter, she told me that our daughter was asleep, but she (watching the game herself on mute), was afraid to move. The Pelicans couldn't miss; would a fan on the Northshore moving disrupt the forces that had aligned? We wouldn't dare chance it - she held our sweet little girl until the game had concluded before putting her in the crib.
Flamethrower Fully Loaded
Ryan Anderson and all of the basketball gods in existence smiled on upon our wise decision. Ryno, on fire the entire night, made three 3-pointers in the first three and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. His last two makes were absolutely ridiculous; challenged step back threes in the left corner. Anderson was feeling it all night, racking up 30 points on 9-18 shooting with a scorching hot 8-14 performance behind the arc.
Still, I cannot help but feel he left a couple makes on the floor tonight. These two shots and another WIDE OPEN attempt did not find their way to the bottom of the net.
These two shots resulted in zero points. Have to love the process. pic.twitter.com/OqXUmTMxqS— David Fisher (@usnfish) December 13, 2014
This is not to speak negatively on Anderson. Simply to demonstrate that a good portion of why the Pelicans shot so well is thanks to the Cavs being absolutely terrible on defense. Ryno was 8-12 behind the arc before the first attempt pictured. There isn't a defender within 20 feet of him. Anderson hit two improbable shots. He gave those back to Cleveland later. The Pelicans still won.
Tyreke Evans played like a man possessed tonight. No quarter was better than the third where he scored (10) or assisted (10) 20 of 25 points. As Oleh has pointed out lately, Tyreke is a completely different player in the Crescent City this season compared to on the road. In his last four home games Evans is shooting 60% (48-80) from the field and averaging 27.5 points and 6.5 assists per game.
Unlike his breakout against the Knicks, this game was more predictable. The Cavaliers are dreadful defending the rim - opponents shoot 56% at the basket against Cleveland, 27th in the league. After Ryan Anderson caught fire in the fourth quarter Cavs coach David Blatt elected to have LeBron James guard Ryno. That left the hopelessly outmatched Kyrie Irving, Matthew Dellavedova, or rookie Joe Harris guarding Evans or Holiday.
Both Evans and Holiday responded to this disrespect by scoring 14 of the Pelicans final 19 points. They both asserted their obvious size advantages over their match-ups, routinely getting quality looks for themselves or their teammates.
Know Your Role
Omer Asik and Luke Babbitt are often the forgotten members of the starting five. Asik's strengths are not easily measured on the box score. His weaknesses are often times highlight plays for the opposition. Tonight was no different as he was blocked at the rim yet again; however, he also did his job exceedingly well.
First, the easily identified part: counting stats. The Pelicans posted a respectable 75% defensive rebounding rate for the game. Asik led the way with 14 rebounds, 11 of which were defensive. On offense, and despite his one blocked attempt, he was effective, scoring nine points on just 3-4 shooting from the field and 3-4 from the line.
Asik did more though.
Kyrie Irving turned it on at the end of the game to make things interesting. But he also started the game 0-9 which included five misses within eight feet of the basket. Irving might have built that brick house, but he got an assist from Omer Asik.
Babbitt is on the floor to shoot. He did that tonight, going 2-6 behind the arc in 30 minutes. LeBron James was absolutely on fire tonight scoring 41 points on 24 shots including an absurd 8-11 on shots beyond 16 feet. If LeBron is that hot, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do. Babbitt continued to do his job of defending without fouling and kept at it. Later, Dante Cunningham got his shot, and had similar results. With the game in the balance, the Pelicans turned to everyone's favorite mop top to close it out. Babbitt delivered.
Jruth, The Invisible Star
Jrue Holiday had a couple of rough games against the Warriors and Clippers on the West Coast trip. This lead to one unfortunate writer deciding to break out the #HOTTAKE machine with this headline "Jrue Holiday: Trending Downward?" (And no, I will not link it) Holiday has kind of done a little better in the last five days. Let's take a look at his game log via ESPN.
In his last four games Holiday is averaging 20.3 PPG, 8.3 APG, and 3.5 RPG while shooting 55.7% from the field and 60% behind the arc. Oh, and he's taking care of the ball posting a 3.67 assist-to-turnover ratio. That's not kind of good, that's All-Star good.
Holiday will cool off some behind the arc but what he's been doing inside the paint over this stretch is more sustainable. Opponents continue to overplay AD on the lob, just giving Jrue shots in the "in-between" area. Holiday has responded by shooting 11-16 in the paint but outside the restricted area.
Posted without comment.
Don't see this often in NBA: For 2nd straight game, Pelicans have pair of 30-point scorers, and it's 4 different guys (AD, Jrue, Ryan, Reke)— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) December 13, 2014
A couple other reserves chipped in valuable minutes tonight. Austin Rivers played 23 minutes and scored 11 points including draining all seven of his free throw attempts. His defense and effort were solid and the dunk to end the first half (beating a downright lazy LeBron down the court) took the team into the locker room on a positive note.
Alexis Ajinca struggled to defend in space against the Cavaliers. Monty Williams gave him the quick hook and Jeff Withey played 13 minutes. Two points, four rebounds, and a blocked shot were enough to hold down the fort; giving both Omer Asik and Ryan Anderson some valuable rest in the second and fourth quarters.
Dante Cunningham played sparingly until the fourth quarter when Williams went to him to toss another victim in front of LeBron James. I love the energy and effort he brings. Great offense oftentimes beats good defense and for whomever found themselves on LeBron James the result was unchanged. In the final three quarters, LeBron shot 9-13 from the field. He also attempted just two free throws.
Although x Rays are negative, Anthony Davis is in a good deal of pain. Officially questionable, but I doubt he returns tonight vs #Cavaliers— Jennifer Hale (@JenHale504) December 13, 2014
Monty on Anthony Davis chest contusion: "We'll have a better idea of what's going on tomorrow." AD pain did not decrease as game progressed— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) December 13, 2014
Davis left the game in the first quarter with a chest contusion. He did not return. While he may not be available on Sunday night against the Warriors it does not appear to be a serious condition at this time with the information provided.
The Pelicans will play Golden State on Sunday at 5:00 PM. Note the earlier start time. The Smoothie King Center should be rocking.