Jrue Holiday did not put up an amazing box score tonight; 13 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals is certainly a good stat line but not incredible. The New Orleans Pelicans were a completely different team with Holiday on the floor tonight and it shows up at the end of those traditional stat lines. Plus 32. New Orleans outscored the Milwaukee Bucks by 32 points in the 25 minutes Holiday spent on the court tonight. That is just a dumbfounding number; massive even considering the final 116-99 margin.
Let's jump right into the meat of the game, when a largely competitive game was blown wide open. With three minutes remaining in the third quarter the score was knotted at 71 a piece and neither team had taken control of the contest. Holiday took the reigns of the offense and led a 13-3 run while scoring or assisting every single made field goal. Assists piled up by the bucket full tonight, collecting 33 team wide against just eight turnovers. Ball movement which our entire staff has been clamoring for was beautiful in the second half and Jrue Holiday took the lead.
That went beyond just offense as Holiday was tasked with cooling off the hot shooting of Khris Middleton. Middleton came out in the third quarter on fire, scoring nine points while shooting 4-5 from the floor. Once Holiday checked in Middleton would shoot 2-5 the remainder of the quarter and Holiday's defense was all over those misses.
That momentum carried into the fourth quarter as the Pels extended the lead in the first six minutes. Threes rained down and a ten point lead quickly grew to 19. Toney Douglas, who was excellent tonight, knocked in four on the game and two in the fourth quarter alone. Ryan Anderson, who led the team with 23 points, connected on six triples of his own as the team set a new record with 17 makes behind the arc. The Pelicans social media team had some fun tonight.
Anderson got a bunch of easy, catch and shoot 3-pointers tonight. The ball found open shooters all night long and Milwaukee was hopelessly chasing to close out only to arrive late or watch another pass to a wide open shooter. It was what Pelican fans expected to see when Alvin Gentry was hired in May. Beautiful basketball may have finally arrived in the Crescent City. As a team the Pelicans have 155 assists in the last six games, averaging over 25 a game.
No player improved more tonight moving the ball than Anthony Davis. Like Davis did last season against the Bucks he kept the ball moving when catching around the free throw line. AD filled up the box score tonight with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks. Out of the locker room Davis assisted Omer Asik on two consecutive layups punishing the Bucks for rolling their coverage to the strong side on his post ups. Gentry said in the post game this was a deliberate decision for the coaching staff.
Gentry: Second-half adjustment was moving AD from right block to left. Trap came from baseline, AD could pass w/ rt hand over left shoulder.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) January 24, 2016
Garbage time featured Bryce Dejean-Jones getting his first NBA points on another open 3-pointer from the top of the key. Joel Meyers and David Wesley noted on the broadcast that the entire bench was up and celebrating after the bucket. This kind of chemistry building for the team is excellent to see after an awful start to the season.
I am still reserving judgement to say this team is actually good. I remember a pretty embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers just a week and a half ago. What I will say is that they aren't awful and have shown flashes of being good. This team started the season 1-11 but is 15-16 in the last 31 games. That's a pretty large sample of "not bad" this franchise can build upon going forward. The Pelicans are just 3.5 games behind the Sacramento Kings as of this writing and could be within three games of the playoffs by sunrise.
The season isn't over yet. Remember how you felt about the Pelicans just 12 months ago.