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Pelicans build early lead, hold on for dear life (and playoff hopes) in Sacramento

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Unnecessary drama. Poor execution for long stretches. Apathy on defense. And a win. Interesting recipe there Pelicans.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans had everything they could have possibly asked for right in front of them. The Thunder lost in Memphis. After an ugly start to the third quarter a timeout flipped the script and New Orleans held an 18 point lead with six minutes remaining in the quarter. Excellent. Build a little on the lead, hold it into the fourth, and then cruise to an easy victory. Sounds like a plan, right?

NOPE.

16-0 run by the Kings. After the game Monty Williams said, "I didn't want to use another TO to rescue us after using one earlier in the third." Thankfully a couple trips to the line for Anthony Davis broke the drought and the Pels went into the fourth up just three points. After the break between quarter New Orleans roared back out to a ten point lead. Again the Pelicans gave it right back.

Tonight the team could not string together more than three minutes of consistent play in a row. The coaching staff has a finite number of timeouts and a team that needs to learn how to play through rough stretches. Sometimes the best lessons are taught through failure. Thankfully those failures were not so damaging as to lead to a loss.

Get Back

On a number of occasions the Pelicans just didn't get back on defense. Derrick Williams and Omri Casspi got a number of cheap baskets while New Orleans guards just trotted back at a medium pace. There is no excuse for that behavior. This is the de facto playoff run for New Orleans. Every game is a playoff game at this point. Jogging back on defense and waiting for someone else to get the job done is just awful.

To close the game Tyreke Evans missed four consecutive free throws, where he went just 2-7 on the night. New Orleans won by just six points and could have put up a more impressive margin of victory. Thankfully this is not college basketball and the Pelicans will not be voted in; either they will win their way in or lose their way out.

Boogie Stopper

DeMarcus Cousins was a monster tonight, once again. He put up his second consecutive triple-double, tallying 24 points, 20 rebounds, 13 assists, and 4 blocks. If the standard box score is your guide Omer Asik's 4 points and 11 rebounds were a pittance.

Dig deeper. Cousins scored 24 points on 22 shots from the field and another 10 trips to the foul line. He also had 5 turnovers. One enormous thing, Cousins did not have a single offensive rebound tonight. On numerous possessions Cousins simply avoided going into the paint against Asik, willingly choosing to hoist 20 foot jump shots. Regardless of a result that is a win for the defense.

Spittin' Hot Fire

Quincy Pondexter is on a bit of a tear now. He made six of his first seven three point attmepts tonight including a deep buzzer beater to end the first half. His presence at small forward is really opening up more lanes for Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis to operate. Davis is also on the lookout for Pondexter sliding into the weak side corner on his catches at the top of the key. Pondexter would miss his last two three point attempts.

In 38 games as a Pelican Pondexter is now averaging 9.2 points per game while shooting a blistering 43.7% behind the arc. That's not a bad player to receive for Austin Rivers, even if some believe that was a C trade for New Orleans.

Eric Gordon did his part as well, leading the Pelicans in scoring with 21 points while shooting 4-8 from three. Since returning from a torn labrum Gordon is shooting 46.4% behind the arc. It is in large part thanks to the efforts of Pondexter and Gordon that the Pelicans are now fourth in the NBA in three point percentage.

Riding Your Stars

Tyreke Evans nearly had a triple-double, loading up the box score with 19 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, and 5 steals. If he makes his free throws to end the game that stat line looks really impressive while shooting 8-15 from the field. Instead he missed four consecutive free throws and went just 2-7 on the night. Ugh.

Anthony Davis, on the other hand, just wasn't good tonight. He felt like he was in "chill mode" for a lot of the game and elected to pass instead of being assertive more often than I would like. Against the Lakers you can get away with that. Even tonight against the Kings it didn't bite him, largely because his teammates played (and shot) very well.

20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks sounds solid. Davis took 18 shots to get there and shot 35% from the field. He vacillated from disinterested to furious with the officials. He was not at all dominant and at times looked passive or flustered.

If the Pelicans are going to rack up the necessary wins in the next few games to push into the playoffs it is going to take more from their superstar. Tyreke Evans and friends might be enough to beat sub-.500 teams at this juncture. There is only one such game left.

Up Next

No rest for the weary as the Pelicans play the Portland Trail Blazers tomorrow night at 9:00 PM local time.