Jared Sullinger exploded for 27 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists, leading the Boston Celtics to a 108-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelcans. Jae Crowder contributed with a career-high 22 points in helping Boston in their upset victory. Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in defeat.
So, uh, wow? I imagined the Pelicans winning this game, and winning it quite easy. The Celtics had just moved their best player in Jeff Green, and one of the more underrated post players in the league in Brandan Wright. The Pelicans lost just Austin Rivers from their "rotation," and didn’t get Quincy Pondexter yet. Not to mention, the Pelicans had the best player on the floor, so I thought this would be a layup.
I was wrong. Ooooh, was I wrong.
The Celtics came out and outplayed New Orleans. Their two best players on the night, Jared Sullinger and Jae Crowder, combined for 18-31 shooting. Crowder did a good job of making the smart play, whether it was cuts to the basket, the extra pass, even some good defensive plays against Tyreke Evans on pick and rolls. Along with his 22 points, Crowder finished with three rebounds, three assists, four steals, and two blocks, meaning, he was doing a ton of valuable things out there for the Celtics on both sides of the ball.
As for Sullinger, he was just a bulldozer at various points throughout the game. When he wasn’t in the paint terrorizing Pelican post players, he was taking threes, and the Pelicans had to defend that. Sullinger went 1-4 from three, but 8-13 inside the arc, finishing tough against contact, and even had a couple tough rebounds over Davis and Asik. There were multiple moments where he bullied Ryan Anderson with a couple tough post moves in the third quarter.
To make things worse, the Pelicans couldn’t maintain control of the ball throughout. Jrue Holiday (more on him in a bit), finished with five turnovers in the first half alone. Both Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon had a handful of turnovers while running the pick and roll. In total, the Pelicans had 18 of them, resulting in 21 points for Boston. Not good, especially when you’re on the road.
I'll say this, there were some things that I liked. Omer Asik played well against the Celtics, and I was wondering if and when that would turn around. Of course, Davis came through and took everyone's breath away with incredible basketball, and Eric Gordon looked good. The Pelicans hit 40% of their threes and got to the line 37 times. It was the defense that hurt them. Allowing 36 points in the fourth quarter is unacceptable, and this isn't the first time that has happened this season.
This is a tough loss for the Pelicans, but they have some pretty easy games coming up, including the New York Knicks. Let’s go to the notes.
-- So at first, I just thought Jrue Holiday was coming back off the bench in the second half. He didn’t have a fantastic first half, finishing with five turnovers, but he also had some solid defense on Avery Bradley and Evan Turner. He went 2-5, but I think he needed to come off the bench in the second half. We won't credit Monty for it, but he saw a problem and decided to make a move to adjust. I liked it. Then, I saw this on twitter:
Jrue Holiday (right ankle inflammation) is doubtful to return— Pelicans PR (@PelicansPR) January 13, 2015
So, fine. Holiday was hurt and couldn't play in the second half. This made the game a bit tougher, but as long as it was just some small inflammation, I was fine with this. He's played at least 34 minutes per game in the last three, and maybe it caught up with him. No big deal. Then, I saw this:
Interested to see what happens w/ Jrue Holiday. He missed 48 games last year after needing surgery to repair a stress fx in the same leg.— Jeff Stotts (@RotowireATC) January 13, 2015
Holiday is the second-best player on the Pelicans in terms of production and importance. Holiday was just having a solid run for New Orleans over the last month, and I would hate to see a potential injury derail that. If Holiday were to miss games, I imagine the Pelicans would go with Evans back in the starting lineup, and while he can replicate the ball-handling, the playmaking would take a hit, and the defense would take a hit. Let's hope for the best.
-- I love the idea of Dante Cunningham in the starting lineup over Tyreke Evans. Evans can handle the second unit and dominate the ball, while Jrue gets more time running the offense. Cunningham is a solid defender closer to the basket, and does a good job of closing out on shooters at the small forward position. Having Holiday and Gordon on the outside gives him some support when needed, so I think this should be the starting lineup for the interim.
-- Eric Gordon: Let's keep this up. This has to be my favorite Gordon game of the season. 21 points, 3-5 from three, and even handled some of the point guard duties in Holiday's absence. He isn't the same monster defensive player he was setting up to be when he first came over in the trade, but he looked solid here, playing some good man-to-man defense on both Bradley and Turner. His ability to defend and space the floor is valuable for this team, and while he's not $16 million good, he's a nice player to have when he's healthy.
-- Anthony Davis is just incredible. At the start of the fourth quarter, it was setting up to be his game. An emphatic flush, a huge defensive play, and a monster rebound over two Celtic defenders. He can do it all at this point: Block shots at the rim and jumpers, finish at the rim and continue with that sweet mid range jumper, and he can rebound over most. I guess the one gripe I have is that the team isn't better when he takes 20-plus shots, but I don't know what the alternative is.
-- Meh on Ryan Anderson. The addition of Evans and Pondexter to the bench should only ease his load. He went 2-8 on the offensive side of the ball, and was bullied quite a bit on the defensive end by Jared Sullinger, including two fouls, one resulting in a three-point play. I like the idea of having a good playmaker and another floor spacer with him on the floor, and that's what Evans and Q-Pon should provide when it's all in motion.
-- Jimmer had some moments. A nice little pocket pass to Davis for a flush and somehow got six free throw attempts in 12 minutes. Fredette went 0-3 from the field, which isn't great, but even as a poor defender and a jumper still looking for the bottom of the net, he still finds a small way to provide some productive minutes. You can sell me on something like Jimmer, Evans, Pondexter, Anderson, Withey as the second unit. No, I'm still holding out hope for Withey, too.
-- I'm just saying: Holiday, Gordon, Cunningham, Davis, Asik as your starters, with Evans, Jimmer, Pondexter, Anderson, and Withey is not a bad 10-man rotation. You have some size, some defense, some potential shooting, and I like it. Maybe Jimmer and Withey don't play on some nights.