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The Buck Stops Here: New Orleans Pelicans win first game of 2016-17 season in Milwaukee

The Pelicans avoid setting a new record for worst start in franchise history with a 112-106 win over the Bucks.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t resist:


We did it. We finally did it, y’all. We won a game.

Yes this is just one game. Yes the Pelicans are still 1-8. But we haven’t had much anything to celebrate with this team all season long so let’s take some time out and actually enjoy this first win.

Remember that King of the Hill episode when Peggy becomes the cheerleader coach and her inventive cheers inexplicably results in the football team turning it’s season around and that random guy says to Hank “Hey Hank your wife reminded me why I like sports so much: WINNING!!!” That’s what tonight should be for us. Tonight’s a TREAT YO’ SELF night.

True to this team’s form, the Pelicans didn’t make it easy on themselves (good Lord the lack of rebounding at the end was awful), but they got it done and that’s more than this team can ask for right now. Leading by as many as 15 points, New Orleans watched their lead slip all the way down to two points with 15 seconds left in the game but they never gave it up completely. They got it done, that’s the biggest takeaway from tonight.

And it’s a good thing the Pelicans got the W tonight because Anthony Davis was playing like he was really tired of losing and was prepared to get all those who didn’t share in his desire to win out of his way. When the lead started slipping away late in the fourth quarter Davis’ play screamed “NO EFFING WAY ARE WE LOSING AGAIN” and he brought out his alpha dog side. Davis scored eight of his 32 points and grabbed three defensive rebounds in the final four minutes of regulation. Of those eight points, four came at the free throw line; Davis was appropriately aggressive in crunch time and it made the difference. For the night Davis finished with a team-high 32 points and 8 rebounds in 41 minutes and he made all eight of his free throw attempts.

Basketball’s a team game and Davis, as great as he is, needed his teammates to meet him halfway tonight and they obliged. Every single Pelican player except for Langston Galloway had a positive plus/minus tonight. The Pelican bench, which only scored 19 points against Milwaukee in their previous meeting in New Orleans, combined to score 30 points tonight, highlighted by Buddy Hield making three three-point shots in 16 minutes of action.

The Pelican bench was good but the starters were better. E’Twaun Moore delighted Pelicans Twitter with 20 points, 16 coming in the third quarter, and Tim Frazier had 15 points and 10 assists; Terrence Jones provided some physicality and got to the free throw line six times and made every one en route to a 10 point, 7 rebound performance. Dante Cunningham was the lone starter to not score double-digit points but he compensated by recording four rebounds and three steals in 19 minutes.

Watching the game it was hard to pinpoint what exactly was the difference in this game, but I’ll say it was the three-ball being as kind as it’s been all year for New Orleans (36 percent tonight which still isn’t great but it’s better than their league-worst 28.6 percent for the year) and the Pelicans being nearly perfect from the free throw line: New Orleans shot 27 free throws and hit on 25 of them. They also had splendid ball movement tonight, 22 assists, and did a nice job of limiting their turnovers. It’s a cliche but this was a night where everyone contributed.

And hey, credit the Bucks for making this a game late. Jabari Parker one-upped Anthony Davis’ 32 points with 33 and was really feeling it from the midrange tonight, the Greek Freak walked out of the arena with a 17 point, 10-rebound double-double effort and there was a brief moment in time where a Michael Beasley heatcheck was in play.

The Pelicans desperately needed a win tonight and they got one. They need a lot more if they want to crawl out of the hole they’ve dug themselves but you can only win one game at a time. If the Pelicans can get a collective team effort like this Saturday night against the Lakers there’s no reason they can’t get a winning streak started. But that’s for a later day, tonight let’s enjoy something we haven’t experienced all season long: a Pelican victory.