On most nights, the teams in the NBA follow the norms that they have established for themselves. The Warriors will make a ton of threes. The Sixers will be awful. The Spurs will quietly dominate and so on and so forth.
Some nights, like tonight, things get a little fluky in the good way. Tonight was one of those nights for the New Orleans Pelicans.
New Orleans shot the lights out of the Smoothie King Center. In the first quarter of the game, the Pelicans shot 60 percent from the field; they went into halftime shooting 65 percent and had a season high 72 points to their name.
Tonight was one of the most balanced attacks New Orleans has had all season. Of the 10 Pelican players who attempted a shot, all 10 scored. The usual suspects, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson, were their typical selves and scored a combined 67 points. But it was the contributions from New Orleans role players that really gave the Pelicans a comfortable cushion all night long.
Norris Cole had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists starting in place of recently-injured Eric Gordon. Cole only had one turnover and New Orleans was +7 when he was on the court. Alonzo Gee had seven points, nine rebounds, and an assist, steal and block in 29 minutes off the bench. Gee's three made baskets were a three-pointer and two ridiculous dunks including one put-back slam. Energy like that is why New Orleans has won four of its past five games. But maybe the single biggest stunning stat line from tonight's blitzkrieg belongs to Omer Asik: 12 points on four of five shooting and made all four of his free throw attempts. If Omer Asik's making all of his free throws and 80 percent of his field goals, you know tonight's your night.
Naturally the Pelicans' hot shooting eventually cooled, New Orleans settled for making "only" 53.5 percent of their shots tonight, but the defense was able to keep Detroit at bay even though the Pistons scored 99 points. Detroit did shoot 41 percent from the floor, but their poor three-point shooting, 7-29 for 24 percent, dragged them down. Even better New Orleans didn't put Andre Drummond on the free throw line 53,239 times. Thanks for keeping it 100 for us, fellas.
For better or worse, New Orleans is on a bit of a hot streak. The Pelicans have won four of their past five, including the opening two of a seven-game home stretch. Their next four include the Bucks, a beatable Rockets team, the Kings and the Nets. That's three teams with losing records and the other, Houston, at .500 as of tonight. If, and this is a big if because this team certainly doesn't warrant such assumptions, the Pelicans can hold serve these next four games they're 19-27. Still not a record to brag about, but you'd imagine that would pull them into closer range of the eighth seed (remember as bad as they've been this year, they're only three games back).
The Pelicans are in purgatory. Every win puts them closer to a wide-open eighth spot in the playoffs, but it pushes them farther and farther out of the lottery picture. This year this team can't win for losing. No they probably won't win the lottery if they're in it, and they definitely will not beat Golden State in the playoffs. They may not even take a game from the Warriors in a series.
I'm not sure which course the Pelicans should follow but I'll say this much: tonight was a night where New Orleans was beating down a current playoff team all night long and, for me at least, that's a good feeling. Maybe tanking and trying to secure a high pick is better for the franchise long-term; or maybe going all in and gunning for a playoff spot after a injury-riddled start is better because it shows team and franchise morale. The right answer will reveal itself in time I suppose. But right here, in this moment, beating Detroit feels pretty good to me.
- The Pelican starters scored 81 points tonight. I think that's relevant toward the outcome of the game.
- Anthony Davis had 32 points on 13-23 shooting and seven rebounds tonight. Those numbers accompanied his two assists, two blocks and one steal. Just another ho hum night for Davis.
- Brandon Jennings did all of the heavy lifting for an otherwise ineffective Pistons bench tonight. Jennings scored 20 points in 20 minutes including three three-pointers and made five of six free throws.
- Speaking of free throws, New Orleans made all 18 of their free throw attempts tonight. Omer Asik making all of his keeps getting more inexplicable.
- On a night where Andre Drummond maaayyyyy have been snubbed as a starter for the All-Star Game he turned in a 19 point, 22 rebound monstrosity of a game. Drummond had 22 rebounds and the rest of his Piston teammates had...22 rebounds. In fact of the 88 total rebounds tonight, Detroit and New Orleans each had 44, Drummond accounted for a quarter of them. Efficient.
- Jrue Holiday had a sneaky bad night tonight. Holiday only made three of his 11 shots tonight and never got to the free throw line. But I believe when you pick out one small blip of poor play on an otherwise stellar team performance that's defined as "nitpicking."