In the seven through ten spots in the Western Conference reside the San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, and Oklahoma City Thunder. Conventional wisdom says that the Spurs and Thunder, on the shoulders of their historic performance and the experience gained therein, will emerge from this bloodbath.
The Pelicans have played four games so far against their other three competitors of the eleven (four against the Spurs and Thunder, three against the Suns) they will play this season. After tonight's impressive, hard fought victory the ledger stands at 4-0 in the Pels favor with two wins on the road. New Orleans will host Phoenix for their first matchup on December 30th before traveling to San Antonio on New Year's Eve for their third game.
These games almost count double. New Orleans sits in ninth in the Western Conference just two games behind the Spurs for seventh and one game ahead of the Thunder for tenth. The (L)Eastern Conference portion of the schedule is coming and the Pelicans need to survive the next two weeks.
Omer Asik was called for a foul in the first ten second of the game battling an aggressive Tim Duncan for position on the low block. It set the tone for the Spurs on offense, who went into Duncan early and often leading to 10 points in the first quarter alone. Deep catches against a more passive Asik (attempting to avoid his second early foul) and a couple rather improbable "frozen rope" 10-15 footers had Timmay 5-6 in just under six minutes.
The Pelicans started the game slow, not scoring in the first two and a half minutes. Jrue Holiday and Tryeke Evans finally broke New Orleans out of the funk. The entire first quarter was played within a four point swing as New Orleans relentless attacked the basket as not a jumper would fall.
The second quarter was better as the Pels won it 28-20. Ryan Anderson continues to display gorgeous footwork on a variety of drives, up-and-unders, and stepbacks. The entire Arsenal was demonstrated. The Spurs went on a mini 5-0 run in the final minute and Anderson, victim of an actual mugging under the basket, expressed his extreme displeasure with the officiating. Anderson was rung up for a tech, Danny Green missed the free throw (Ball Don't Lie), and the Pels went into the locker room angry and up 48-44.
Anthony Davis took this game over in the third quarter. After missing his first two jumpers he buried three in a row from nearly the same exact spot as Holiday and Evans were setting him up in the pick-and-pop. In that span Davis also turned in a block of poor Cory Joseph. That was just the beginning. Then this happened.
Anthony Davis isn’t human. https://t.co/tBA8spHNSF— Daniel (@benchwarmerdan) December 27, 2014
Davis then turned away a Boris Diaw attempt with ease. But the Brow was not done. Going for the trifecta the Spurs decided to post up Tim Duncan on Anthony Davis. This was a poor choice.
Anthony Davis took Duncan to church and then got super hyped about it https://t.co/A9LfHZeWkn— young klout king (@jackhaveitall) December 27, 2014
Davis recorded three blocks on four Spur possessions. The Pelicans maintained immediate possession after every single block. After the Duncan exchange my wife (in the bedroom with the baby is our good luck arrangement) texts me "AD SAID NO! AD IS MAD." New Orleans went into the fourth up 70-64.
The fourth was relatively uneventful. The Spurs never really challenged but like all Pelican fans I was on the edge of my seat expecting the Spurs to execute and New Orleans to falter. The Pel reserves, who outplayed their counterparts in silver and black, extended the lead to nine points before Davis checked back in with 7:28 remaining. The closest San Antonio would get was 95-90 with 11.3 seconds left. On the previous possession we got a glimpse of #POINTBROW as Davis drove the lane and dished for an Anderson two hand slam to close the door on a Spur comeback.
There will be more to come, but this win is huge. Yes, the Spurs are struggling with injuries and were on the second night of a back-to-back. Yes, the Pelicans have been inconsistent in finding the bottom of the net. Tonight was about fire from unsuspected places as the normally calm Anderson and Davis were challenging their teammates, the refs, and their opponent. This is a game New Orleans last year coughs up in the final minutes.
- Anthony Davis was amazing. The above. His 22 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 blocks, and 2 steals. He was still cold much of the contest and Tiago Splitter really bothered him but Davis found a way to put an indelible mark on this game.
- Jrue Holiday makes defense fun. Two steals and two impressive blocks to go along with a third that was called a foul. The degree of difficulty going from Cory Joseph to Derrick Rose is a significant increase. Looking forward to tomorrow night's fireworks.
- Austin Rivers had an inefficient night with his shot but still found a way to get 12 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and zero turnovers.
- Tyreke Evans was less assertive tonight as the ball ended up in Jrue and Austin's hands more than usual. He should be more rested for tomorrow's game?
- The Spurs attempted just 23 uncontested shots all night. That is an absurdly low total for a team that prides itself on creating quality scoring opportunities. San Antonio also had 17 turnovers and posted an offensive rating of 92.6.
- Ryan Anderson was angry all night. While he still missed a couple open threes he was finishing around the basket with acrobatic flair. One dunk which didn't count, a drop step throw down with the right hand right after a foul by Matt Bonner, was absurd. NBA players are so much more athletic than normal human beings.