The Pelicans started the game with 3 missed shots but then made 4 of their next 8; conversely, the Rockets started 1-7. The result was an early 9-2 lead. Naturally, it didn't last as the Pelicans started turning it over too many times including several early miscues by Luke Babbitt and a couple of Omer Asik bobbles. In came Austin Rivers and then Ryan Anderson awhile later, and the Pelicans closed the first quarter in strong fashion thanks to a number of Tyreke Evans shots around the rim.
The second quarter saw the Pelicans continue their dominant play with another 9-2 start to a frame. Usually, it's a concern, but when the Pelicans had all five reserves in despite Howard and Ariza in for the Rockets, we were able to maintain the momentum. New Orleans wasn't watching the shot clock count down uncomfortably close to zero and it was evidenced by a strong 56.8 FG% and 50 3FG% first half shooting line. The Pelicans took a sizable 59-42 into halftime.
Ryan Anderson was en fuego, making 7 of his 9 first half attempts to lead the Pelicans with 17 points while Evans had 15. The Rockets defense was full of holes as witnessed by the plenty of breakdowns. (Yep, for a change, it wasn't us!) For instance, simple back door cuts by our players resulted in a lot of lay-ins at the rim.
On the other side of the floor, the Pelicans defense was stingy, as nothing was coming easily for the Rockets. This was highlighted by Jrue Holiday's two blocked shots on several Houston three point attempts. For the half, the Rockets finished with a 36 FG% and a ghastly 17.6% from deep. Admittedly, it was a bit disconcerting to see they did attempt 17 three-pointers in just 24 minutes -- giving one the feeling they might be able to turn their fortunes around. However, this immediately made me feel better:
In the 2nd half, Asik started with a jumper, Evans had a lay-in and Babbitt got fouled on a fastbreak attempt. Meanwhile the Rockets saw Josh Smith shoot a three, which is as good as a turnover, and then they committed a real box score turnover. McHale promptly responded by yanking all his starters in less than 2 minutes of action in the third quarter. Thus, as you might expect, the Pelicans continued to roll and ended up winning the third quarter by a 30-18 margin.
With a 29 point lead heading into the fourth quarter, all the reserves started to have some fun. Jimmer Fredette making good looks remained a recent thing. Dante Cunningham was contributing in the box score on both ends. And Austin Rivers caught an alley-oop pass from Jimmer.
Don't look now, but the team deemed destined for mediocrity by too many national media types has an even record of 4-4 against far and away the best division in the NBA!!!
- Anthony Davis had a quiet night offensively (7 points), but he did so many other things: 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. For instance, early on, he had a great block against the hopeless Josh Smith that just seemed to set the tone of our outstanding defensive effort for the night.
- Omer Asik started slowly as he failed to even be aware of two passes headed his way, but he responded strongly by finishing with 9 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists in a mere 23 minutes. He splashed a 12 footer, slammed home a basket in traffic and took Howard off the dribble for his final made field goal. His passing doesn't get enough press neither as he had a couple of nice passes.
- Tyreke Evans started quickly as he scored 11 points in the quarter. Good Tyreke finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. The only groan he produced was when he took and missed a poor 3 point attempt just minutes into the game.
- Luke Babbitt was perfect from the floor, but he still made a couple of turnovers that shouldn't be occurring anymore. He literally has one job on offense -- shooting the rock. Anytime he tries to do something else, poor results often follow. Most likely Eric Gordon's return will push him back to the bench (and maybe out of the rotation entirely considering Fredette's recent play), but I still hope he improves upon his specialist role sooner rather than later.
- Like AD, Holiday was quiet in the scoring column (7 points) but he made his mark elsewhere with 6 assists and 7 rebounds. His best impressions were on defense though with a couple of great steals in the open floor and two swats of Rocket three point attempts. Everyone should love how Jrue demonstrated his understanding of Houston's offense -- looking to either shoot the three or take it to the rim -- so he overplayed them for those shots with a great deal of success.
- Dante Cunningham played well and scored 13 points and had 3 steals. However, it is surprising that a guy with his intensity manages to grab 0 rebounds in 28 minutes.
- For the third game in a row, Jimmer Fredette made a positive impression: 10 points and 2 assists. Likely, it has coincided with John Salmons unfortunate absence from the team, but one should trust Jimmer has earned a role regardless going forward. And this really rings true guys:
In Jimmer's defense, I will say Anthony Morrow didn't become a difference maker until well after last year's New Year.— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) January 3, 2015
- Alexis Ajinca had 6 points and 9 rebounds in 16 minutes of action, but he did have to leave earlier than usual in the second quarter with two fouls. How do you say please no more fouls in French?
- Seldom used Jeff Withey and Russ Smith were able to get a few minutes in the blowout. Smith was the only Pelican to not register a single point on the night.
- In all, the reserves scored 59 points on the night. However, when it was still considered a competitive game, they had 28 of the 59 first half points. Yes, Anderson provided 17 of those 28 points, but it was great to see the offense never bogged down, especially when 5 reserves were on the floor at the same time.
The Pelicans defense was outstanding tonight as they never let Houston get comfortable, let alone have any fun. They were under 40% from the floor and were 6 of 29 from thee point range. That's not going to win a team very many ballgames. Trust loyal Pelican fans, we know.
On the other hand we ripped through theirs like tinfoil: 53.0 FG%, 46.7 3FG% and 80 FT%.
As our David likes to say, it's a make shot league and the Pelicans made 9 more field goals, 9 more free throws and 1 more three pointer.
The Pelicans will have two days off before hosting the Washington Wizards on Monday. Perhaps the bigger bit of news is that Eric Gordon is nearing a return as Monty contemplated over whether or not to make him active for tonight's match-up. Obviously he didn't, but Gordon is slated to practice this weekend and could conceivably then make an appearance in our very next game.