Another game, another night the New Orleans Pelicans should be thanking whatever deity they believe in for Anthony Davis’ existence.
Davis refused to let his Pelican teammates lose to the Miami Heat, being the catalyst of a 14-point comeback tonight in the Smoothie King Center. Especially poor shooting threatened to be the undoing for the Pelicans, but the 1-2 punch of Davis and Jrue Holiday proved just enough to squeak by the Heat.
Davis became the fourth player this season to post a 20/20 game with 28 points, a career best 22 rebounds and 4 blocks. A performance like that hasn’t been seen since Shaquille O’Neal last did it in 2004. Jrue Holiday was right behind Davis with 22 points and 6 assists, and Langston Galloway chipped in with 11 points and 3 three-point balls.
Those three were the only Pelicans to make more than two shots tonight, in what proved to be just a horrendous night shooting for New Orleans. Dante Cunningham, Alexis Ajinca and E’Twuan Moore made two shots tonight; Buddy Hield, Solomon Hill, Tim Frazier and Tyreke Evans each only made one basket. As a team New Orleans only shot 37 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three; their recent woes at the free throw line also continued tonight as they combined to shoot 66 percent from the stripe.
Toward the end of the third quarter it looked like New Orleans was in danger of being run off their home court by the Heat. Miami capitalized on New Orleans poor shooting and built up a 14-point lead. Timely three-point shooting from Miami was threatening to push the Heat lead to an insurmountable amount, yet Tyreke Evans was able to be effective despite not scoring many baskets. As mentioned, Evans only scored one basket, but it was a rare and crucial three, and he got to the free throw line four times and made all four shots. For the night Evans scored 7 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, handed out 5 assists and recorded a steal in only 15 minutes of action.
While Evans was leading the comeback in all areas besides scoring, Anthony Davis carried the load in that particular category. Davis scored 15 points in the third and no shot was bigger than a three ball at the end of the quarter to cut the Miami lead to four.
The three re-energized a lifeless Pelican team that looked like they were the ones coming off a back-to-back instead of their opponent. That three could’ve been prevented however. Miami had the ball and could’ve played for the last shot of the quarter, but Tyler Johnson foolishly shot, missed with 10 seconds to play, and Davis made him pay for the mental error with a momentum shifting three.
The three was part of a 15-0 run New Orleans used to erase their 14-point deficit. A brief lead by way of a Solomon Hill three pointer wouldn’t last as Miami utilized a 9-0 run to give them an 8-point lead; but New Orleans, again, countered with a 7-0 run to pull the game within a point with four minutes to play.
Since it was Miami 68-54, there was a 15-0 NOLA run, a 9-0 Miami run, then a 7-0 NOLA run. Add it up and it's Mia 77-76 with 4:27 left— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) December 24, 2016
Fatigue started to show on Miami’s faces toward the end as Jrue Holiday was able to get to the rim unimpeded a few times. Some less than clutch free throw shooting from New Orleans kept Miami hanging around, but ultimately they did just enough to keep the Heat at bay.
The two matchups to watch tonight was Goran Dragic vs. Jrue Holiday and Davis vs. Hassan Whiteside and both lived up to their billing. Dragic and Holiday played to a tee with Dragic posting 23 points and 5 assists while Holiday had one fewer point, 22, but one more assist, 6.
Whiteside and Davis had an awesome clash tonight as two of the best bigs in the game brought out the best in each other. Davis, as mentioned earlier, recorded a career-high 22 rebounds on the league’s leader in rebounding and Whiteside was hardly a sloch scoring 10 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
The Pelicans are off for Christmas and won’t be back on the court until December 26 when they play the Mavericks. Monday will be game three of a five-game home stretch for New Orleans and if the plan is still playoffs it’s imperative they beat one of the league’s bottom feeders.
An Anthony Davis encore would go a long way toward making that happen.