Kevin McHale rested some of his starters tonight, giving regular starters James Harden and Chandler Parsons the night off. Obviously Monty Williams had no such luxury. Opening Day starters Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, and Jason Smith were all out due to injury. The lone healthy starter, Al-Farouq Aminu, logged just 17:25 despite an absence of foul trouble. Three regular starters for the Rockets -- Patrick Beverly, Terrance Jones, and Dwight Howard -- logged about 25 minutes each. Howard left the court in the third quarter after jacking up a corner three.
Were both teams far from 100%? Absolutely. But only the Rockets chose to do so.
Both teams came out fast out of the gate, Houston leading with a 30-28 advantage after the first quarter. Terrance Jones led the way with 11 points, scoring every point in the paint or at the free throw line. Foul trouble for Jeff Withey meant Monty Williams was forced to sub in
Luke Babbitt, who scored 24 against Houston on Saturday Melvin Ely, who on Saturday was still in the D-League. #MontyBall in full effect tonight.
In the spirit of Stiemsma, Ely racked up four personal fouls and zero rebounds in 17:26. He also had a team worst +/- at -11. The perfect vessel for #MontyBall. Ely again preceded Babbitt off the bench in the third quarter.
The Pelicans managed to take the lead in the second quarter when foul trouble for Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey, and Melvin Ely forced Al-Farouq Aminu to play center for the final 4:39 of the half. The Pelicans were down 41-37 when Monty was forced to make the switch; they were up 53-50 at the half. New Orleans made 6 layups in that stretch, scoring 16 points on 9 possessions.
The second half began with a Tyreke Evans three and the Pelicans quickly extended their three point lead to eight before the fouling once again commenced for New Orleans. Again Ely came in before Babbitt, this time replacing Ajinca. While the Rockets would bring the game back to a tie, they were unable to gain the lead throughout the third quarter as Tyreke Evans poured in 11 points and 3 assists.
Babbitt, freed from the chains of his own pump fake, finally got going in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of the first ten Pelican points. From there, the Rockets would score on seven of their next eight possessions to take a 100-99 lead into the under three minute media time out. Up to this point, the offense was initiated by Austin Rivers with Tyreke Evans operating off the ball and hardly being involved. I had an idea.
Ball in Tyreke's hands. Crazy idea, let's try it.— David Fisher (@usnfish) April 17, 2014
Immediately out of the timeout the Pelicans went into a four-flat look. Darius Miller came up to set a ball screen but Evans waived him off. Layup and the Pelicans were up again 101-100. A Withey block on the other end got the stop, and again on offense, the Pelicans put the ball in Tyreke's capable hands. Evans collapsed the defense and set up Withey for a pretty right hook in the middle of the lane. 103-100 Pelicans. The next possession, a transition opportunity the ended in a hesitant Morrow missing a late challenged corner three set up by Tyreke. Withey's 4th block of the night ended Houston's possession. Again Tyreke had the ball in his hands. And again Tyreke got to the basket. 105-100, Pelicans win.
- Tyreke Evans put up 25 points (on 20 shots), 10 assists (with 2 turnovers), and 6 rebounds on the night. Since being inserted into the starting lineup (23 games), Evans has averaged 19.7 PPG, 6.4 APG, 5.4 RPG, and shot 49.9% from the field while posting an impressive 56.6% TS%.
-Austin Rivers ended the season on a very good stretch for him. In his last six games Rivers averaged 14.7 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, and posted a 51.4% TS%.
- Jeff Withey ended the night with five blocks. He needs work on his strength to hold position while rebounding, but his hands on offense and timing on defense have been a nice development. Hopefully he can continue to get better and become a rotational big at some point next season.
- Speaking of rotational bigs, there might be a spot for Alexis Ajinca next year. He's got great hands and continues to demonstrate them. His biggest issue is not strength (yes, he gets pushed around a bit by Dwight Howard, so does everyone else) but fouling. That enormous wingspan of his is useful, but continuing to try to reach and swat at every opportunity is severely limiting his effectiveness. Goal for the off-season, watch as much Roy Hibbert verticality in the playoffs as possible while ignoring everything Hibbert does on offense.
- Anthony Morrow thanked the fans before the game. His effort and desire are contagious. He loves working on basketball and being in the gym if you follow him on Twitter. I sincerely hope he comes back next season (and Dell Demps stated he's very interested in bringing him back). Either by picking up his player option (unlikely) or the Pelicans using the Bi-Annual Exception, I think Morrow is a good person to have on this roster.
That's it for the Pelicans this 2013-14 season. But it is not all for the staff here at The Bird Writes. Expect some season recaps in the very near future for the team and individual players. The lottery is on May 20th. The Pelicans have a 4% chance to keep their pick. Thank you for reading.