The Philadelphia 76ers came into New Orleans with an 8-45 record and they didn't disappoint in failing to perform up to NBA standards... at least initially. The Pelicans scored 71 points in the first half, nearly eclipsing their season-high of 72 points they had tallied against the Detroit Pistons back on January 21st.
Through the first 24 minutes of action, Anthony Davis had multiple highlights en route to a 22-point, 4-rebound, 2-steal and 2-block half. He finished the game with 34 points and 7 rebounds, but made just 3 of 12 from the field in the second half. Although it wasn't a complete game from start to finish, Davis seems poised to go on a mission over the final 29 games so as to leave no doubt that he deserves All-NBA team season-ending honors.
In the second half, the Sixers mounted a furious comeback because the Pelicans, like they've done on numerous occasions this season, settled. After scoring 23 fast breaks in the first half, they had none following halftime! Fortunately for the Pelicans, the Sixers cooled and part of that had to do with Jahlil Okafor fouling out of the game midway through the fourth quarter.
To the credit of Brett Brown and his coaching staff, the Sixers never wilted during any part of this one. It's as though their team never once looked at the scoreboard or thought their deficit or some circumstance was too much to overcome. I pray their front office pays attention to this because their issues all stem from personnel problems.
The Pelicans leave for Detroit to face the Pistons in two days time. It's an early 2:30 tip-off Sunday so don't forget to set your alarm clocks!
After a long All-Star break, the game started off predictably slow. There were plenty of turnovers by both teams, Davis missed a couple of shots he normally makes and Norris Cole airballed a floater. One benefit to the choppy play was Jahlil Okafor picked up three fouls within the first six minutes. Take a seat, potential Rookie of the Year!
At the midway point of the first quarter, the Pelicans held a 14-10 advantage, and they started to earn a living at the free throw line and inside the paint. By the end of the first 12 minutes, they had 12 free attempts (made 10) versus only 2 three-point tries (made 1) to build a 37-26 lead.
Things continued to go smoothly for New Orleans at the beginning of the second quarter. Four minutes in, the lead was 15. Then 17. However, bad teams tend to let off the gas pedal and this year's version of the Pelicans is no different -- the Sixers cut the lead to just 10. Thankfully, Holiday re-entered the game and helped pick up the team, sparking a 14-2 run.
New Orleans took a 16-point lead (71-55) into halftime, but the disparity should have been larger. A silly turnover during the final second gave the ball back to the Sixers and Nik Stauskas converted on his three-point look.
Two minutes into the second half, the Sixers were on a 6-0 run and forced Alvin Gentry to call timeout following the Pelicans lethargic start. An Omer Asik tip-in finally got New Orleans off the snide, but the damage had been done. A 16-2 Sixer-run going back to the first half had trimmed the lead to just 8 points.
For the rest of the third quarter, Philadelphia hung around, and it was largely due to the play of Okafor. He went a perfect 5-5 from the field and scored 14 points. To close out the frame, seldom-used Kendall Marshall and Isaiah Canaan made 3 triples to reduce the Pelicans to a mere 2 points.
Yep, the team with the worst record in the league had just outscored the Pelicans by 14 points within the span of one quarter of play.
After the Sixers cut the lead to a single point, the Pelicans re-engineered a cushion of 8 points in the early part of the fourth quarter. Ryan Anderson and Alexis Ajinca spearheaded the attack by scoring 9 of the team's first 13 points. Then, Okafor picked up his sixth foul with 6:11 remaining in the game. Although Philadelphia never quit, they failed to completely scare the Pelicans during the final minutes of the game.
- Jrue Holiday finished with 24 points, 12 assists and 4 steals. It wasn't one of his best games of the season, but if people haven't realized yet that he is Robin to Davis' Batman, I don't know what else to tell you. There is a reason why it was reported the Pelicans didn't make him available before the trade deadline. Want the cherry on top? If he can finish the season healthy, he'll enter the summer able to concentrate on conditioning and improving his game, not rehabbing.
- Ryan Anderson didn't suffer any letdown following a week's worth of multiple trade rumors. He finished with 26 points, 4 threes and 4 rebounds, further adding to the theory that not playing 41 games inside the Smoothie King Center is a bad idea. (Hint, hint, hometown discount!)
- Omer Asik put together a nice line in just 19 minutes of action: 9 points and 14 rebounds. He did allow Okafor to carve him up a bit in the third quarter, but overall he did an excellent job.
- Bryce Dejean-Jones smashed his chin right before halftime and required stitches. Later, the PR department reported he was questionable to return following a wrist injury. What kind of dumb luck is this? New Orleans signs him to a multi-year deal and he gets injured in the very first game of the new contract!
- Dante Cunningham and Alonso Gee combined for a ton of minutes again (49) but just 4 points and 4 rebounds. It's been said a million times, but the front office needs to bring help to the small forward position this summer. Quincy Pondexter and perhaps BDJ in limited time are a start, but more dependable production is required.
- Nerlens Noel impressed me tonight. His boxscore was nice (24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) and is quite indicative of the improvements in his game. He went right at Davis and looked good in doing so on multiple occasions. If he ever adds a consistent jumper, he'll be one of Philly's core pieces for a very long time.