Bully ball was back in the Smoothie King Center for at least one night. After Alvin Gentry was ejected for arguing an incorrect call on a Chris Paul swing through, Darren Erman took the reigns and did his best Monty Williams impression. The result? The New Orleans Pelicans outscored the Los Angeles Clippers by a 53-42 margin in the second half and pulled out a big 102-98 win to pull to 3-1 on this important home stand.
Gentry was correct in arguing the call. The swing through was ruled to be a non-shooting foul after Kevin Durant made an absolute killing off it for years in Oklahoma City. It should not have been a shooting foul, giving Chris Paul three free throws. The additional technicals turned three into five free throws, and the Clipper lead expanded to 45-39 as Gentry headed to the locker room with 4:06 remaining in the second quarter.
Up to that point, the Pelicans had actually played reasonably well if not for a horrendous performance from the free throw line. Rebounding, as predicted in the game preview, was a significant problem. Buddy Hield got going in the first half at the basket in transition, and despite Anthony Davis being nearly invisible, New Orleans trailed just 56-49 going into half time.
Los Angeles threatened to blow the game open in the early portion of the third quarter, frequently extending their lead to nine points. The Pelicans would battle back and a big reason was Buddy Hield, burying two consecutive threes to bring the margin back to just one point. The second of which brought the crowd to its feet.
The Clippers answered back with a run, yet these Pels would not die and finished the third quarter with a run of their own with a heaping helping of old school Tyreke Evans bully ball.
The fourth quarter was more of the same and you would be excused if you weren’t looking for Monty Williams on the sidelines once again. Tyreke Evans scored or assisted on ten consecutive points as the Pelicans seized control, operating out of the pick and roll with Anthony Davis or Terrence Jones with ruthless efficiency. Every single trip seemed to be a high screen and roll with just enough variation around the edges to keep the Clippers off guard. The Pelicans lead grew to ten points.
Just like the good of bully ball, we were reminded of the bad. New Orleans managed just three points in the last four minutes of the game as the pick and roll well went dry. Up three points with 35 seconds remaining Tyreke Evans dribbled out the shot clock before running another pick and roll with Anthony Davis. Evans got all the way to the basket but his layup attempt failed to catch the rim and his rebound attempt gave Los Angeles the ball with 13 seconds to set up a chance to tie.
Oddly, Chris Paul checked out (why?) for the final meaningful play and a Marreese Speights 3-point attempt did not come close to finding the bottom of the net.
Darren Erman surely won some fans tonight with the renewed focus on running the pick and roll if my timeline is any indication. Hield was still MIA in the fourth quarter as the coaching staff has yet to demonstrate much trust in the rookie during crunch time. Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, and Tim Frazier did not play despite being healthy according to the injury report. That’s roughly 18% of the Pelicans’ salary cap dedicated to DNP-CDs tonight. Ouch.
Six Pelicans scored in double figures led by Anthony Davis with 20 points and just 5 rebounds. Buddy Hield (17), Langston Galloway (12), Tyreke Evans (12), Jrue Holiday (11), and Terrence Jones (10) joined Davis with a balanced scoring attack. Holiday had nine assists and Tyreke Evans chipped in five despite logging just 16 minutes.
New Orleans will wrap up this home stand hosting the New York Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis on Friday night.