If you told me Anthony Davis was going to struggle from the field, DeMarcus Cousins was going to do his best Godzilla impersonation, and Eric Gordon would appear lost for multiple quarters I would have predicted a blowout win for the Sacramento Kings. Thankfully, despite all of those negatives, the Pelicans pulled away in the third quarter and cruised to a comfortable 102-88 victory.
First, about Davis. He struggled tonight against Rudy Gay. Gay's athleticism routinely cut off driving lanes and AD settled for turnaround fadeaways which could not find the target tonight. The final stat line is a typical Davis game; 24 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks, 2 assists, and a steal. It took 26 field goal attempts (he made just 11) and three more trips to the foul line (he should have had quite a bit more). Luckily, for a guy who reportedly has "no help" Davis found some tonight.
Quincy Pondexter is on fire. He's shooting 47.7% behind the arc this month on 65 attempts. Tonight he put up 16 points including going 4-8 behind the arc, his fourth consecutive game in double figures. Norris Cole has also caught on, shooting 40.5% in March. He chipped in 12 critical points, oftentimes bailing out terrible offense with a couple answered prayers in the fourth quarter.
All of this brings us to the player of the game tonight, Tyreke Evans. Evans is hardly known as a competent jump shooter, but in the Blender something clicks on. Tyreke shoots a ghastly 22.4% behind the arc on the road this season. At home, after another solid night going 2-4, he is shooting 35%. That's league average. Tonight Evans put up 25 points while shooting 10-15 from the field. He also tallied 10 assists against just three turnovers.
Put it altogether and the Pelicans are shooting 39.3% behind the arc since the All-Star break. Only the Golden State Warriors are more efficient from deep.
Running Away with the Game
The third quarter started ugly. Turnovers, long possessions, and Monty Williams called a quick timeout after just a minute and a half. The Kings were on an 8-2 run and a four point lead had flipped into a two point deficit. In the next 14:47 the Pelicans would outscore the Kings 40-20 and the lead would stretch as large as 18. Cousins, an unstoppable beast for much of the game, was held to just five points in this critical span going 2-7.
A Norris Cole and Toney Douglas backcourt put on a big run. This is a thing that happened in an NBA game. Tonight. At one point either Cole or Douglas accounted for 16 of 18 Pelican points as the lead stretched from seven to 18. There is no way to explain this phenomenon. Cole made backbreaking jumpers with the shot clock expiring twice early in the fourth quarter. About that time I guess the Kings felt it just wasn't their night.
DeMarcus Cousins was unguardable tonight. He went 6-8 on mid range jump shots in the first half. Most of those makes were with a hand, from either Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca, in his face. Of all the shots you want Cousins to take, those are the ones the opposing coaching staff would select every single time. Cousins reeled in 20 rebounds. He scored 39 points. He went full kaiju. You can't stop it without a nuclear strike.
Functionally I felt the Pelican scheme against Cousins was solid. If a player is just so hot that he is making contested shots at a high rate, especially low percentage ones, you live with it as a defense. As commentators are want to say, great offense beats good defense. The Pelicans played good defense on most possessions.
Cousins also scored 11 points in the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand. With a big lead long Cousins post up or isolation possessions aren't the ones that beat you. Throwing hasty double teams early which lead to open threes are the way to lose at that point.
The Pelicans have Saturday off to rest up for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder, resting tonight, play on the road against the Utah Jazz. Those Jazz lost to the Nuggets in Denver. Thanks NBA schedule! The Phoenix Suns, still very much in this thing, are in a tight game in the third quarter with the Portland Trailblazers as of this writing. New Orleans is still in the playoff race, but they will need to take care of business and get quite a bit of help along the way.