Everyone is familiar with the story of Jekyll and Hyde, right? Well there is no doubt in my mind that the Pelicans have a split personality. One night, they'll drive you bonkers -- from botching lay-ups to missing tons of wide open looks. The next night, they're taking down the reigning champions, the San Antonio Spurs. Or beating up on a different Western Conference powerhouse. Kind of like they did tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Through the first 6 minutes of the game, the Pelicans had 6 points. For the rest of the first half, they tallied 63 points in 18 minutes! Coming into tonight, the Thunder had been allowing on average 93.2 points to their foes.
Anthony Davis got the party started by tallying 9 quick points in 2 minutes. Then the rest of the team joined in, but not fully before AD gave us another highlight.
Shocking development https://t.co/pVkpOdF1WL— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) December 3, 2014
Even Austin Rivers splashed a three from the corner. That shot gave the Pelicans a 6 point lead, but more importantly, it gave fans the sense that at the very least, the team came ready to play for the first time in the last 4 games.
The 2nd quarter was where the real magic happened, specifically the final 2:28. If you're pressed for time, I urge you to watch these final minutes before halftime. Taking a page out from the Thunder, the Pelicans imposed their will to blitzkreig their opponent on both ends of the floor. Defensively, Jrue Holiday came up with two good steals and a fantastic block against a Russell Westbrook attempt at the rim. Offensively we attacked the rim mercilessly. Once the dust settled, the Pelicans had increased the lead from 5 to 17 in just 148 seconds.
2nd quarter of OKC-NOP was one of the fastest-paced I've ever tracked. 28 possessions each. OKC had 7 live-ball turnovers.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 3, 2014
Statistically, the Pels were dominant in the first half, putting up 50 shot attempts and making 25 of them. For perspective, the most FGA they had a year ago in a non-overtime game was 97. That's a heck of a rate against one of the league's best defenses.
You want more? Points in the paint, a 32-18 advantage. Fastbreak points, a 14-10 advantage. Rebounds, a 29-22 advantage. Turnovers, a 4-8 advantage.
In the second half, Monty Williams started Ryan Anderson over Luke Babbitt, presumably because of his four personal fouls. With even less firepower among the reserves, the Thunder predictably made a run towards the end of the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to 11 by the end of the frame.
Mysteriously, Monty Williams started the 4th quarter with the same inept lineup of Rivers-Salmons-Babbitt-Anderson-Ajinca. Before the first minute was even completed, the lead was whittled down to 7 and Davis and Holiday were immediately reinserted back into the game.
The lead jostled around uncomfortably in this range until Tyreke Evans decided to take over the game. From the 8:06 mark to the 3:46 mark, Evans scored 15 consecutive points for the Pelicans, with his final 2 coming on 21 foot jumpshot. Nothing but net. The Thunder attempted several more runs, but they never got closer than 8 points.
- Anthony Davis did most of his damage in the first half, but he still nearly managed to post the first 5x5 game in our franchise history: 25 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals and 4 blocks. Kevin Durant has gone on record saying Davis will be the next great player in line to win the MVP trophy. He wasn't kidding.
- Tyreke Evans had himself a ball game scoring a season-high 30 points.
Coming into the game, he was averaging under 50% within 3 feet of the rim. Tonight he made 62% of his looks from that range. Guess, what? That was his typical efficiency in his Sacramento days. If he can consistently maintain that type of effectiveness going forward, the Pelicans will be be able to scare any defense in the NBA.
- Jrue Holiday continues to grow before our eyes. Although he wasn't all that efficient (once again a bad shooting 4th quarter is largely to blame), he still posted a nifty line of 16 points, 10 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. It's probably not often Westbrook gets his shot blocked by the opposing point guard but Holiday did just that. For the game, Westy managed to shoot just 30% and Holiday's defense should get most of the credit. He limited a number of Russell's looks to midrange jumpers and fortunately he failed to convert most of them.
- Ryan Anderson started the game with a bang by making his first four shots and finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. I really REALLY hate to bring this up, but it's probably important that he continues to play well and the Pelicans start winning a lot more games than they have been of late. With the recent vacancies in the roster plus numbers showing the Pelicans might actually be better off without him, Anderson could stave off further rumors by stringing together a host of solid performances.
- Luke Babbitt replaced Rivers among the starting five and hit two crucial three-pointers back-to-back in the 2nd quarter. Unfortunately, he picked up 4 fouls in the first half; thus, it led Monty to start Anderson in his place after halftime. However, it was troubling he never got a solid look in the second half and most of his minutes were gobbled up by John Salmons, who managed 0 points in 25 minutes.
- Austin Rivers started the game off well with a three and a solid drive before the end of the 1st quarter. However, as it's been the case of late, he ended up a liability on the floor. He became timid offensively, and on defense, Reggie Jackson got the better of him.
- Omer Asik played 27 minutes, 8 less than Anderson, yet he still managed to grab 14 rebounds. I feel his rebounding was key, especially in the first half. He helped extend several Pelican possessions but held the Thunder to just one shot on the opposite end.
- The free throw shooting was abysmal. When the game was close, the Pelicans were 8 of 16 in the 1st quarter and they finished 29 of 45. Coming into tonight, New Orleans ranked 21st in the NBA in FT% and they're likely to fall even further. This is troubling considering the last several years they've finished in the top-10.
In the preview, I had hoped the Pelicans would run, force turnovers and not be afraid to go small. The team checked off all three off the list in fine fashion and spoiled Kevin Durant's return to the NBA. Hopefully, New Orleans will get some credit for the win rather than many writing off OKC's loss on the rust factor of the recent returns of their stars.
Up next, the Pelicans will face the Golden State Warriors Thursday on TNT. With another good showing, expect fans to start climbing back on board the bandwagon.