The New Orleans Pelicans won for the sixth time in their last eight games, yet Thursday's victory over the Sacramento Kings represented so much more. For the first time in three years, the organization was able to earn a win without the services of both Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans. They had been 0-6 with the average margin of defeat exceeding 10 points a contest.
In his post-game comments, Alvin Gentry was as surprised as anyone by the Pelicans' first quarter performance.
"Uhh, yeah!!! I was getting ready to lie about it, but I was. I thought we did do a good job."
The Pelicans had their offensive stars post big games, while a number of key role players made their presence felt. Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday combined for 61 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists and 6 threes. Anderson's points scored (36) was both a season-high and a career-high tying effort. For Holiday, it was another typically productive game since the start of December.
Among the role players, Omer Asik's presence (8 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks) was instrumental in keeping DeMarcus Cousins at bay. The Kings All-Star center was held to 26 points on 24 shots, this after averaging over 33 points on 23 shots during the month of January. He was legitimately upset following the game.
DeMarcus Cousins on being an All-Star: "I wish I could show a little more excitement right now. I’m pretty pissed about this loss."— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) January 29, 2016
Norris Cole had an interesting game. In the first half, he went scoreless, missing all five field goal attempts but added 9 assists. After halftime, he scored 17 points yet added only 1 assist. It's frightening how often he has run cold this season, but to his credit and for the sake of the Pelicans on at least this night, his confidence didn't waver, and he rewarded the team with 8 makes in his final 14 attempts.
Bryce DeJean-Jones is less than 10 days removed from playing in the D-League for the Idaho Stampede.
Meteoric rise! JAN 18, Dejean-Jones in DLeague gm JAN 20, Pelicans sign BDJ JAN 23, BDJ scored 1st NBA points JAN 28, BDJ draws first start— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) January 28, 2016
Despite Alvin Gentry throwing him into the starting lineup, Dejean-Jones acquitted himself well: 14 points, 3 threes, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. His rejection of Omri Casspi was nice, but his first quarter dunk was nastier.
Bryce Dejean-Jones throws it down! https://t.co/zUsd51d8YP— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 29, 2016
BDJ wasn't without fault, though. His defense was spotty, often losing his assignment all too easily, and his performance from the free throw almost baited the Kings to resort to the Hack-a-Shaq. Thankfully, he converted his final free throw attempt on the night, likely dissuading the George-Karl-less squad to go in a different direction.
Alonzo Gee patrolled the passing lanes like a starved hawk, picking up 5 steals on the night, and his effort was consistently good. He has played a big part in the Pelicans recent string of wins and has likely cemented his role as the team's starting small forward again.
Three teams currently lay ahead in the standings, but the Pelicans sit just 3 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Up next, the 12-34 Brooklyn Nets fly in Saturday, and the Pelicans will be dressed in their Mardi Gras uniforms for the first time season. Hopefully, it doesn't interfere with the team's strong performances of late.