After a terrible performance against the Orlando Magic we should have known the Pelicans would bounce back. What kind of bi-polar team would they be if they couldn't suddenly catch fire against an Eastern Conference playoff team. After being blown out by a doormat. Of course New Orleans brought it tonight, torched the Miami Heat, and reminder the Western Conference they are not going away quietly in the playoff race. The game was tied exactly twice, at 0-0 and at 2-2. The Pelicans led for the following 40:27 of the contest following an Omer Asik layup just three and a half minutes into the game.
That's a nice thought.
No. No. No!
No. The Pelicans might have put away the Miami Heat tonight, but in the big picture we can stow any hopes of the playoffs far from our minds tonight. Anthony Davis looked rough again in the first quarter, shooting 2-8 from the field. That eighth attempt, going into Hassan Whiteside looking for the call, sunk any hopes of a playoff push. Davis missed the shot, did not get the foul call, grimaced, and went directly to the bench. After an intentional foul Davis left the court and headed straight to the locker room.
The @PelicansNBA now have doctors x raying Anthony Davis re-injured right shoulder...GM Dell Demps in locker room with AD.— Jennifer Hale (@JenHale504) February 22, 2015
Early in the second quarter the news went from bad to worse. Ryan Anderson collapsed clutching his right knee after a rebound attempt. He also went directly to the locker room, this time with assistance from the training staff. So far reports are limited to Jen Hale's last few tweets. Both are relatively positive.
Anthony Davis OUT for rest of game vs Heat: re aggravated R shoulder. @PelicansNBA training staff also evaluating Ryan Anderson's right knee— Jennifer Hale (@JenHale504) February 22, 2015
With 9:41 remaining the second quarter the Pelicans were without two of their best players and up just 25-21 against the Heat. How would they respond?
Eric Gordon Lights a Fire, Warms Remaining Pelicans
First, the Pelicans got to the free throw line a little in the second quarter and the Heat just couldn't score. Then Omer Asik went nuts (relative to his predicted performance) with two dunks and a layup on three consecutive possessions. If it wasn't for an Eric Gordon technical free throw (thanks Birdman!) Asik would have scored six consecutive points for the Pelicans. File that away as stuff that won't happen again.
New Orleans stretched the lead to double figures and fought off a Miami rally at the end of the second quarter to go to half time up 52-42. Could they maintain that lead or would a veteran Heat squad grind out an ugly win. Eric Gordon had a little to say on the subject.
ERIC GORDON— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) February 22, 2015
A nifty cut by Dante Cunningham, starting for the injured AD and Ryno at power forward, got the Pelicans off on the right foot to begin the third quarter. Gordon then laid waste to any hopes of a Heat come back, burying three consecutive 3-pointers on four possessions.
The lead stretched to 63-46 and head coach Eric Spolestra wanted to talk it over. Gordon was not done making two more field goals (one was a three) and two free throws for a 5-5 FG, 4-4 3PA, 2-2 FT start to the third quarter. Gordon, demonstrating his mercy, would miss his final two attempts in the frame to finish with 16 points in the quarter, matching a career best.
Eric Gordon entered tonight ranked 2nd in NBA in three-point%. He's at 47.0 on season with a 6-for-8 game. Began night at 45.5 (Korver 51.1)— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) February 22, 2015
The closest Miami got in the fourth quarter was 13 points. A win is a win, but the players lost to injury tonight, even if their recovery time is short, should eliminate the Pelicans from playoff contention. It really sucks to be just two games out of 8th with 27 more games to go and injuries to knock the entire thing off the rails.
-Eric Gordon is second in the NBA in 3-point shooting among qualified players. I am not joking.
-Omer Asik may have had one of his best games as a Pelican. 15 points and 9 rebounds on 6-9 shooting from the field. Still, I think he was blocked on a couple of occasions and missed a layup.
-Quincy Pondexter had one of his worst games in a New Orleans uniform according to the box score but played well, especially on defense.
-Tyreke Evans was not particularly good tonight. Monty Williams pulled him early in the first quarter and played him with the second unit. Even with Hassan Whiteside's defensive presence on the bench Evans was unable to really get anything going tonight.
-The bench chipped in well tonight. Ajinca had 8 points (and 5 fouls) in 10 minutes, Cunningham had 7 points, and Luke Babbitt had 9 points and a least one more pump fake victim. Babbitt's pump fake might be one of the most effective I have seen in the NBA.
-Norris Cole delivered everything Pelican fans were hoping for. He pressured the ball. He attacked in transition and at times got New Orleans into their offense more quickly than normal. In total he scored 12 points on 4-9 from the field with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and just 1 turnover in nearly 30 minutes. I doubt the long term plan involves Cole getting that much run on the court, but tonight it was both necessary and effective.
Monty said updates likely tomorrow on Anthony Davis (shoulder), Ryan Anderson (knee). Sunday is off day for NOLA after back-to-back games— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) February 22, 2015