The New Orleans Pelicans started their 38th different starting lineup against the Denver Nuggets. For comparison, last year's 21-61 Los Angeles Lakers squad only utilized 12 different combinations. How about them apples!
However, none of that mattered because the Pelicans emerged victorious against the Nuggets, and frankly they looked good in doing so. Effort, unselfish play and a bunch of solid lines from guys who would otherwise be elsewhere but on an NBA floor playing big minutes were on display for the second time in two days. Maybe Dell Demps needs to pay attention to this because Alvin Gentry's system does have a chance to work given the correct pieces?
Despite the lack of continuity, the Pelicans, and Luke Babbitt and Toney Douglas in particular, started the game off with a bang. In the first quarter, the duo combined for 21 of the team's 31 points and helped New Orleans build a 5-point lead at the conclusion of the first twelve minutes of action.
In the second, the Nuggets rebounded strongly and were led by Darrell Arthur who tallied 15 points on 6-7 shooting from the field (3-4 from behind the arc). The Pelicans countered with excellent ball movement; as a team, they combined for 17 assists on their 23 first half makes. That's a really impressive number!
The second half, just as in the first, began with a couple of turnovers within the first few offensive possessions but the Pelicans recovered quickly. At the 2:11 mark of the third quarter, they had a 5-point lead, their largest of the game for a second time. However, it didn't last as the Nuggets finished the frame on a 6-0 run to take a 1-point edge into the fourth quarter.
On this night, though, the Pelicans had the last laugh, sorry tank lovers. They seized the lead at the 10:08 mark which they never relinquished. For the second game in a row, New Orleans produced another total team effort. This largely no-name bunch combined for 29 assists, 50 rebounds and 13 triples... On the second night of a back-to-back no less!
Luke Babbitt - Thanks to all the team injuries, Babbitt is finally getting decent burn under Alvin Gentry, who claims to really like him. Babbitt started the game on fire, scoring 12 points in the first quarter en route to a game-high of 22. He's bound to surpass his career-high of 24 points sometime in the Pelicans remaining seven games, right? In addition, he added a team-best 10 rebounds to record his first double-double of the season and the second of his career.
Toney Douglas - There is no doubt little Toney Jr. stole the show during a post-game interview with Jen Hale, but it doesn't take away from his dad's performance on the night: 20 points, 10 assists and 3 triples. In my opinion, Douglas has earned a role with this team going forward because in a pinch, he's normally up for any task at hand.
Tim Frazier - All the former Blazer has done since donning a Pelicans jersey is produce as evidenced by his 8th double figure point total in 9 games. Tonight he tallied 17 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 three-pointers. His New Orleans career still consists of a rather small sample size, but with each passing game, he's proving to be an adequate shooter --much better than his predecessor from earlier in the season, Ish Smith. If he can relatively maintain his efficiency, the Pelicans do not need to look any further for their third string PG come next season.
Jordan Hamilton - Although he claimed in a pre-game interview he can play the 2, 3 or 4, he's best suited at small forward. He's not quick enough to stay with opposing guards, but that's nit-picking. Hamilton turned in a second straight 14-point performance and also added 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 very nice block.
James Ennis - Ennis' athleticism and motor have been very evident during his first two appearances. He has shown nice efficiency from behind the arc, but things haven't gone as smoothly inside of it. At times, he's appeared to be in too much of a hurry instead of taking his time to break down his immediate opponent. Still, I like what I've seen.
Alexis Ajinca - The Frenchman was effective in limited run -- 8 points and 8 rebounds in 15 minutes -- but that was largely due to the opposition. All of Denver's bigs can maneuver around the entire floor making him, Kendrick Perkins, and Omar Asik to an extent, a significant liability defensively.
Dante Cunningham - He didn't have an eye-catching line, but as the lone member of the team to not miss time to injury, he still brings plenty effort to each contest. In a future likely without Ryan Anderson, I'm warming to the idea of Cunningham and Babbitt sharing some of those minutes down the road.