As if the widely visible blue and gold colors among the crowd were not enough of a clue, the majority of fans in attendance came out to support Kobe Bryant on Friday night. In addition, the New Orleans Pelicans organization honored the soon to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame number 24 with a nice tribute in the midst of the first quarter.
If you haven't had a chance to view it yet, I implore you do so because all the spoken words were heartfelt. Kendrick Perkins talked about the Game 7 battle between the Celtics and Lakers in the 2010 Finals where Bryant had willed his team to the trophy. Ryan Anderson added his disdain for Kobe because he grew up a Sacramento Kings fan. Lastly, Anthony Davis thanked Bryant for taking him under his wing during the 2012 Olympics.
When it came time to play basketball, the Mamba did not disappoint. He swished home his first attempt, a three-point bomb and proceeded to add 11 more points, playing the first quarter in its entirety. After one, his young Lakers squad were up 27-24.
After an entertaining first 12 minutes, the start of the second quarter felt like another trip to the dentist. Bad turnovers, poor shots, yet with a surprising gross number of prayers answered, and generally poor fluidity dominated the action for both teams.
Before halftime, though, the Pelicans emerged from the funk and proceeded to outscore the Lakers by a 15-1 margin over the final 3:29 of the first half. Their 11-point advantage was the largest of the game to that point and New Orleans had three players in double figures, led by Alexis Ainca's 16.
After sitting the entire second quarter, Kobe returned in the third, but this time he was not able to successfully will the Lakers. At the 5:32 mark, New Orleans was ahead 78-55 while Bryant was still searching for his first points since the first quarter. Soon thereafter, he departed.
With the Pelicans ahead by 20 after three quarters and the pro-Kobe conglomerate losing interest, the fans started chanting for Bryant's return. Guess what? Byron Scott obliged, sending the Mamba back out at the 7:20 mark. He failed to score on both attempts and left the game for good at the 4:15 mark.
So long, farewell Kobe. Don't let the door hit you where...(the fan in me really wants to finish this sentence!)
Although the final score indicates a close game, it wasn't. The Pelicans simply didn't finish this one in a good manner.
- Alexis Ajinca scored 10 points in the first quarter and had a double-double before halftime (16 and 10). He finished with a career-high 28 points and 15 rebounds. Playing out of the high post has done wonders for him recently, and it'll be interesting to see if the team keeps him in the same part of the floor next year.
- Dante Cunningham was remarkably efficient all night, scoring 19 points on 7 of 11 shooting and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Outside of a dud in Boston, he has been fantastic here in April and is poised to end the season in strong fashion.
- After scoring just 5 points in the first half, Toney Douglas had a very good second half. He finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Lately, I've heard fans talking about how the Pelicans need to choose between Frazier and he, but why can't they keep both? TD is better suited to play off the ball anyway.
- Luke Babbitt came out on fire off the bench, making 4 of his first 5 shot attempts. He wound up with 15 points on just 8 shots, including a perfect 3-3 from three-point territory.
- Tim Frazier was the biggest difference maker for the Pelicans in the first half, as evidenced by a +14 plus/minus. His total of 7 assists should have been higher too. For the game, the stat line (7 pts, 12 asts) was rather meek by his standards, but it's night and day when he's on/off the floor for this heavily banged up team.
- James Ennis' activity continues to impress me because he makes a lot of plays that don't show up in the box score. It was nice to see Anthony Davis also coaching him during breaks in the action on the floor.
- Jordan Hamilton had a nice stretch during the second quarter, making four of five shots. He finished with 12 points, 2 threes and 2 rebounds.
- So as to not leave them out, Perkins and Omer Asik finished with a combined 3 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in 34 minutes. Gulp.
Three games remain on the schedule with the Phoenix Suns arriving tomorrow to conclude the Pelicans final back-to-back of the season. The end is near!