Just two days ago the New Orleans Pelicans faltered in crunch time against the Golden State Warriors, committing far too many turnovers en route to a disappointing loss despite an impressive showing. Tonight, Anthony Davis was having none of it. The Pelicans went on a massive 15-0 run, including 10 consecutive points by Davis, to turn a five-point deficit into a comfortable ten-point lead with 45 seconds remaining.
During four critical minutes of action, the Pacers went cold from the outside and failed to score on nine straight possessions while Buddy Hield finally broke the seal on outside shooting in the clutch for New Orleans. (More on Buddy later.)
Then Davis happened, everywhere, all at once. A block on a Teague 3-point attempt led to an AD dunk and free throw. A clever pick and pop between Holiday and Davis resulted in a buried jumper from behind the arc for the Brow. Not done yet, on the following possession Davis annihilated a Young floater and collected the loose ball in traffic. You would forgive the Pacers for believing multiple AD’s existed on the court.
For the Pelicans and Davis, it was great to see. As many have mentioned the Pelicans have struggled, mightily, in crunch time. Davis more so than most, which has been troubling since he had been extremely reliable in the clutch during the past two seasons. Tonight he was voracious. He even scared Zach Lowe.
Anthony Davis in the last 5 minutes tonight almost kind of scared me.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 16, 2016
There was more tonight. Buddy Hield looks so much more comfortable slotted with Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis. For the game, Buddy finished with a career-high 21 points and 5 three-pointers plus 4 rebounds and 2 assists. That actually understates his impact. On multiple Anthony Davis post ups, I noticed Hield, and usually Hield alone, relocating to make himself available for a kick out pass. Oftentimes the rest of the roster just watches when Davis gets on the left block. Hield was moving toward the ball onto the wing rather than clumping in the weak corner. Clumping up makes helping less treacherous for the opposition, moving complicates communication. Either that’s a play call or Hield has a feel for basketball that many of his teammates lack. I’m leaning toward the latter on that point.
Davis finished the night with 35 points, 16 rebounds, and 5 blocks. He wasn’t the only one stuffing the box score. Jrue Holiday chipped in 16 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds, and just 2 turnovers. In some unique bench lineups, Holiday was playing point guard on offense but defending Paul George as a small forward defensively. That versatility allows Alvin Gentry to play three guard lineups with Langston Galloway and E’Twaun Moore without sacrificing too much defensively. Look for Tyreke Evans to occupy a similar role when his stamina improves.
Speaking of Evans, he made his season debut tonight. In his first stint he got to the foul line and looked utterly exhausted after just a couple minutes of play. (He still made both charity line shots.) Evans was more recognizable in the fourth quarter where he dropped his patented eurostep for an easy layup and then buried a pull-up 3-pointer around a ball screen. He played just two short stretches tonight across the quarter break — that is expected to continue until Evans reaches game shape.
Terrence Jones was the only other notable Pelican performer tonight. 10 points and 11 much needed rebounds off the bench to go with two blocked shots. Solomon Hill was invisible on the score sheet, but his turnover due to pure hustle in the final minutes helped seal the victory. E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway struggled to find rhythm off the bench, though Galloway didn’t let his cold start dissuade him from launching whenever the opportunity presented itself.
No rest for the weary. The Pelicans are headed to the airport for a quick flight to Houston to face the Rockets and former teammates Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson tomorrow night. Minutes were relatively low beyond AD’s 39, so the rest disadvantage shouldn’t be too substantial.