Two days after losing to the 8-32 Philadelphia 76ers, the Pels defeated the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, who before the game was 16-6 at home whilst New Orleans was 7-15 on the road. The Pelicans definitely had a roller coaster night: after leading by 16 at one point in the 3rd, it quickly escaped them, as they were outscored by 21 (Pels only scored 14 the entire of the 3rd quarter).
Ajinca has Awoken
Alexis Ajinca had a career high in points tonight off the bench scoring 22 points. Ajinca was huge off the bench going an ultra efficient 10-13 from the field. The big Frenchman took advantage of the lack of interior defence by continuously scoring down low all night.
To be fair, it wasn't just Ajinca; the Pels outscored the Raptors in the paint 62-34, a 28 point difference. However, Ajinca did maintain his hot streak shooting after coming off his previous season high in scoring this year (16) against Philly and a career high in rebounds.
This posits the question, when Davis is back, where will Ajinca fall to in the rotation? Anderson and Davis post solid numbers together whilst Anderson and Asik are awfully together; maybe using Asik and Ajinca more could help the rotation more? It’s going to be interesting to watch how Monty Williams carries out his bigs rotation when Davis returns.
As well as hitting the game winner, Tyreke Evans had 26 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds on 9-14 shooting. Like Ajinca, this was the perfect game for Tyreke. Toronto posed no resistance in the paint, and Evans attacked the basket with no shot blocking threat. Tyreke also went 7-9 from the free throw line, and even added a 3-pointer to his stat line.
Overall, he played really well, but the 4 turnovers were still damaging, although it was an improvement from the 8 against Philly. A solid bounce back game for Mr.Evans.
- Ryan Anderson continues to struggle shooting the ball, 3-11 is definitely not the way to bounce back after an awful performance vs Philly. He did hit a 3 within the first 2 minutes, but he also picked up two fouls which led to sitting out the rest of the first (which turned to be a blessing in disguise).
- Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter combined for 2-10 in 28 & 23 minutes of play, but they grabbed a combined 10 rebounds. Both struggled offensively yet went after it on the boards.
- Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, as your main ball handlers, had too many turnovers -- they combined for 10 assists and 9 turnovers which isn't a healthy ratio.
The Pelicans are the ultimate .500 team. It seems like no matter who is in their way, if they need to win a game to get to .500, they’ll win (for example tonight, without their two best players, they beat one of the best teams in the NBA on the road). Conversely, they have shown a propensity to lose to any team, no matter how bad they are, if they are .500 (Example: Philly, Boston). This could easily be a coincidence, but at their rate, it’s hard to argue against it.
Nevertheless, the Pelicans won a tough game on the road and displayed toughness and spirit to pull back into this game in the fourth. Closing this game out extremely well was just icing on the cake.