While the aforementioned players are absent, New Orleans has had to find, shall we say, "creative" ways to keep their playoff hopes alive. Two nights ago the comeback against Toronto was thanks in large part to Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca combining for 34 points; tonight was the Quincy Pondexter show.
Quincy Pondexter had a career night tonight, but he paid for it. He hardly got a chance to catch his breath (a game high 40 minutes logged) because, simply put, he was the best player on the court. He set a new career best with 25 points and it only took him 13 shots to get there. He hit on nine of his 13 attempts, knocked down half of his threes (4-8) and was a perfect 3-3 from the free throw line. Pondexter was hot from the start, knocking down four of his five attempts in the first quarter. I thought he played extraordinary tonight, what say the judges from South Park?
The entire Pelican frontcourt played well tonight which is doubly important because the New Orleans backcourt struggled mightily. Consider this: Luke Babbitt was the lone big to not record at least 10 points and shoot better than 50 percent from the floor and he barely missed out on both accounts: 8 points while knocking down 3-7 shots and 2-3 three point attempts. Who wouldn't want that kind of production our of their "worst performing" big?
Here's how your other Pelican big men played tonight. They played so well I figure we should have a medal ceremony a la the last scene in A New Hope:
- Omer Asik: 12 points, 13 rebounds, 1 block on 5-6 shooting and 2-2 FT
- Dante Cunningham: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals 1 assist and 1 block on 6-11 shooting and 1-2 FT
- Alexis Ajinca: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks on 4-6 shooting and 2-2 FT
Oh and in case you're wondering, the Pelicans were actually -10 in points in the paint. Welp.
Taking a Backseat
While the New Orleans starting big men shot lights out, guerrilla radio from the floor, the Pelican guards did not turn that ish up. Pondexter, Cunningham and Asik combined to shoot 66 percent from the floor (20 for 30); Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon shot 29 percent (7 for 29). Oof. Fortunately winning masks all deficiencies and to the two's credit, they still found ways to be effective despite their shooting ills. Tyreke had 11 assists, and really did a stellar job feeding the bigs underneath. One play that comes to mind was a bullet pass to Pondexter who shook his man along the baseline. Meanwhile, Gordon continued to be serviceable from beyond the arc, knocking down a pair of treys.
Let's be simple here: the Pelicans got the job done tonight. They jumped on top of Brooklyn early and did a solid job keeping them at arm's length the rest of the way home. In the rare moments the Nets either tied or took the lead, New Orleans did a phenomenal job of putting a stop to the momentum. A late New Orleans 10-0 run in the 4th essentially ended the game. Hopefully, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson can come back soon, but for now let's appreciate this team is doing without them. They may be plagued by injury but the men that are still standing are refusing to let that cripple the season.
Notes from Tonight
- I think I'm going to start nicknaming Quincy Pondexter "Coupon," for two reasons: 1) frankly the whole "first initial of your first name hyphenated with the the first few letters of your last name isn't cool and never was cool and besides Q-Pon and Coupon are similar enough and 2) when you use him he always cashes in. Hey oh!
- The Pelicans had a really hard time holding on to the ball tonight. As a team they had 20 turnovers. Good on them for getting the job done but next time let's not turn it over 20 times ja feel?
- Norris Cole continues to impress as a Pelican. On the night he had 11 points, shot 4-7 from the floor and 2-4 from three, picked up two rebounds and dished out three assists. Dell Demps sure is good at picking up value via trade huh?
- Tyreke Evans scored 8 of his 15 points in the final 5:40 of the game. Nice job by him to help close this game out.
- Louisiana native Markell Brown had the highlight of the night: a breakaway 360 two hand slam. Pretty ballsy thing to do for a guy making his second ever start but he made it work.
- Conversely, Dante Cunningham had the defensive highlight of the night: a good ole fashioned chase down block of a Markell Brown shot.
- Jarrett Jack...he's still in the league???
- Terrific stat: Luke Babbitt is now shooting nearly 74 percent from three in the fourth quarter. Cluuuuuuutch