Defense has been an issue for the New Orleans Pelicans all season and the start of tonight was no different. The Hornets tallied 23 points within the first six minutes of the game, prompting Alvin Gentry to yank two starters: Omer Asik and Orlando Johnson.
For much of the rest of the game, New Orleans stayed small and that included Toney Douglas and Alonzo Gee starting the second half. It didn't entirely solve the Pelicans' problems, but it at least gave them a fighter's chance to win the game down the stretch.
That said, wow, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday put on a show! Following the first quarter, the duo had accounted for 20 points. At halftime, they had 36, and after three, 63. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Davis had amassed 40 points and Holiday posted a new career high of 38 points, breaking his previous best of 35 against the Knicks back on January 26th, 2013.
Fans were treated to a glimpse of the future, one that Dell Demps had envisioned years ago: Holiday and Davis, two of the best players in the NBA at ages 22 and 25 respectively, tearing apart a stingy home defense that allows 98.8 points per game.
Now, imagine if the fabulous duo had been surrounded by a more competent cast. Ryan Anderson missed all 8 of his field goal attempts. The third-leading scorer was Toney Douglas, a player signed after the first two games on the schedule.
Playing GM is going to be so much fun this summer!
The Charlotte Hornets started quickly out of the gates, building a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter. They were led by Kemba Walker who was darting around anywhere he pleased without much resistance. By the time the first frame ended, he had 14 points, and as a team, the Hornets made 8-11 from behind the arc to seize a 39-28 lead after twelve minutes.
Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis led the Pelicans, combining for 20 of those 28, but as the second quarter also exhibited, offense was not the problem ... well for anyone not named Ryan Anderson anyways. The Flamethrower, in typical road fashion, struggled to find the bottom of the net; he missed all 7 of his field goal attempts.
As it's been the case for most of the year, the defense was giving up open looks all over the court. Walker and Jeremy Lin got inside the paint at will while most outside perimeter jump shots, as demonstrated by Nicolas Batum repetitively, were not contested closely enough.
Hence, the Pelicans were staring at a 71-60 deficit, and that even included a Davis' bomb at the buzzer, giving him 22 points after the first twenty-four minutes.
In the second half, Courtney Lee kicked off the scoring with a drive right down Broadway. Seriously, after the coaching staff had probably just finished talking about defense in the locker room, a Hornet converted an easy lay-in after waltzing down the middle of the paint.
Nevertheless, the Pelicans did make a run with their small-ball lineup thanks to their two stars. On the backs of Holiday and Davis, the duo added 27 points in the third quarter, cutting the Pelicans deficit to eight.
The Hornets began the fourth quarter on a quick 4-1 spurt because Holiday and Davis are human and require rest. Welp, Gentry figured 1:12 of the game clock was enough because after a timeout, they were both back in the game.
Over the next seven and a half minutes, the Pelicans completely eradicated their 11-point deficit. At the 3:17 mark, the score was tied at 109 following a three-pointer by Douglas.
Unfortunately, playing short-handed and attempting to make up the difference all night caught up with the Pelicans. After tying up the game, they failed to score in the next two minutes. By the time Holiday made a couple of free-throws, the margin was back to six with just over a minute remaining.
Game. Set. But-one-hell-of-an-entertaining Match.
- Jrue Holiday was sensational!. In addition to setting a new career high in points (38), he added 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 5 threes. Hopefully tonight marks the end of his three-point shooting woes because career results say he's a hell of a lot better than a 32% marksman.
- Not to be outdone, Anthony Davis had a line of 40 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. This high-scoring double-double put him in some rather elite company.
- Toney Douglas was the Pelicans third best player and it wasn't even close. TD was passable on both sides of the ball, knocking down 16 points and 3 treys while keeping tabs on Walker through the middle portion of the game. I'm glad he's finally getting some solid minutes because he deserves them. For much of the season, he has performed better than Norris Cole yet the strange hierarchy never changed.
- Road Ryan Anderson is as frigid as some of the coldest days that have ever been recorded on Antartica. Maybe it's high time we pin another nickname on him when the team is on the road, perhaps Mr. Freeze?
- Omer Asik played 6 minutes. His contract must be paid until at least the end of 2019. Ugh.
- Dante Cunningham and Alonzo Gee had a few meaningful plays during their 55 minutes of action, but when half the roster is unavailable this proves rather glaring. Honestly, I was shocked Luke Babbitt didn't see any minutes. Seriously, what's up with that when I've heard Gentry is actually a fan of his?!
- Orlando Johnson made his season debut and all I learned was that he's no Bryce Dejean-Jones. His jump shoot looked, to put it nicely, different and he failed to make a single play showcasing his talent.