NBA games aren't supposed to be this dramatic. The highs and lows of tonight's match-up against the Bucks had me spinning and I'm sure I wasn't alone. From the sheer ecstasy of watching Anthony Davis continue to defy NBA parameters to a kick-me-while-I'm-down feeling when Tyreke Evans crashed to the floor clutching his left ankle to utter astonishment the NBA referees managed to stack the deck for the second game in a row.
The Pelicans emerged through it all with an improbable victory against an Eastern Conference team that will
probably make the playoffs. As it's become a theme of late, a number of unexpected contributions ensured the win. Dell Demps has seriously pushed all the right buttons in this crazed season, and the latest, Elliot Williams, made him look like a genius once more. I know I've been saying it all season, but it needs to be repeated over and over so that it eventually gets to Mickey Loomis, Tom Benson and whoever else is a decision-maker of team personnel: KEEP DELL DEMPS.
The Pelicans started the game doing exactly what Monty stated in pre-game they had to avoid: not taking care of the ball. They committed 4 turnovers in the first 3 minutes. Fortunately, when they were able to put up a shot attempt, they were hot, connecting on their first 6 shots. It helped them keep pace with the young Bucks who looked to push the ball at every instance.
Interestingly, New Orleans didn't commit another turnover until in the final 11 seconds of the quarter. After one, the Pelicans led by 3 but it had been larger on the strength of another Anthony Davis explosion.
Anthony Davis is hot y'all. 14 points (6-7), 4 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk in just the first quarter!— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) March 10, 2015
The second quarter saw the Pellies continue with #FlameOn. Elliot Williams got his first points as a Pelican with a corner trey and then Norris Cole splashed a deep three. An official timeout saved Kidd from having to use another one as the Pels had built a lead of 39-28. Then, the turnover switch was flipped back into the 'on' position and another quick 3 were added to the total, fueling a 7-2 Bucks run.
When Davis and Gordon re-entered the game, the lead had shrunk to 4 points. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded a little over four minutes later, the lead was pushed back to 10. I guess when AD is doing stuff like this, it's all good.
At the half, the Pelicans had shot a blistering 61.5% from the floor and 77.8% from three (7-9). The turnover difference was fine (9-7), despite the fact the Pelicans had picked up 7 of those 9 in a really short time span.
The third quarter started harmlessly enough with the Pelicans maintaining their lead, but it quickly turned into an Anthony Davis/Giannis Antetokounmpo show. To be fair, the entertainment factor was there right from the start of the game, but these specific players carried the teams in the frame. They both tallied 12 points each, but it was the display of emotion by the Brow and the Greek Freak that were a sight to behold. These two young stars wanted to will their respective teams at every turn: a fist pump here, a snarl there.
After a timeout, the score was tied at 79 with 2:10 remaining. The Pelicans continued to shoot it well, but the turnovers plagued them from having a healthier lead (another 7 were added to the kitty). But that wasn't going to be the cruelest pain inflicted on fans. Try another injury to an important member to the core of the team.
This time the bug bit Tyreke Evans as his left foot landed on Ersan Ilyasova at the 1:23 mark. Had it been a mere tweak, you knew our interim point guard would have bounced right back up. He's one of the toughest competitors around, and he would have played through it if he could. Instead, he had to be helped off the floor, at first not putting any weight on the leg and scarring everyone into believing something might have been broken.
Thankfully, that didn't turn out to be the case as Jen Hale reported a short while later he was even trying to get back into the game.
Good news for @PelicansNBA fans: Tyreke now testing his ankle in the hallway, putting more weight on it than when he was helped off court.— Jennifer Hale (@JenHale504) March 10, 2015
So what did the Pelicans do after another not-again-injury robbed the team of an additional player? They battled through it, all through the fourth quarter. After Evans went out, Norris Cole scored 4 points on successive jumpers and then Elliot Williams pitched in 5 of his own. #NextManUp has really become a thing with the Pellies.
However, it wasn't a cakewalk. Far from it. The Pelicans saw their lead dwindle to the point the Bucks seized a 1-point lead at the 3:35 mark. Then the MVP-candidate took over. Davis scored the next 8 points for the Pelicans, while the Bucks were only able to muster just 2 on a lone Michael Carter-Williams jumper.
With the win, the Pelicans moved to 8-3 after the All-Star break and sit just a 1/2 game behind the Thunder for the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
- Anthony Davis continues to amaze: 43 points (tied his career high), 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Although he had 4 turnovers, he was on-fire from the field making 17 of his 23 attempts and 9 of 11 from the foul line. He's probably not going to win the MVP award, but I think he deserves one.
- Before his injury, Tyreke Evans was having a nice game: 13 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal/block/three. Although he was testing his ankle in the locker room, I don't expect him to be available tomorrow in Brooklyn. That ankle is going to swell up on him and he's probably going to have to miss at least one game. I just hope he doesn't try and come back too soon because we all should remember how ineffective he looked last season when he wasn't close to 100%.
- Eric Gordon was the 2nd leading scorer, notching 16 points. He made 3 of his 4 three point attempts, and at this point, his catch and shoot ability might be our best bet in overcoming any missed time by Evans. He's been in such a groove that it would behoove the Pelicans to put him on the same side of the floor with Davis. Basically, offer a pick-your-poison option to opponents.
- The rest of the team all made important contributions. I especially enjoyed what Omer Asik and Norris Cole brought to the table.
No rest for the weary nor those hobbling on one good ankle -- the Pelicans have to fly to Brooklyn tonight. Although the Nets have lost 5 of their last 7 games, picking up a win without Evans, when the team is already missing Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson, is going to be a tall order. If by some miracle they can snare a victory, their plane ride back to New Orleans will be of a team sitting in the 8th position in the Western Conference.