The thing about being a follower of a team like the New Orleans Pelicans is that you never really know what to expect on a night to night basis.
If the Pelicans were consistently great, we’d expect lengthy winning streaks with the occasional speed bump in the road. If they were hot garbage, we’d be numb to losing and treat those sparse wins with excess celebration.
But New Orleans is fast proving that every game is a crapshoot. One night they’ll give up 143 points to the Nets, the next they’ll do what they did tonight: handedly beat the second best team in the West, the San Antonio Spurs.
The Pelicans offense chose to scorch a normally sound Spurs defense on Friday to the tune of 119 points, the most allowed by San Antonio all season long. Of that sum, 71 came in New Orleans’ impressive second half where they made a mid-third 11-point deficit all but a footnote in the box score.
The Pelicans were playing it a little risky tonight, but the offense was able to kick into another gear and the defense kept San Antonio at bay. It really was one of the better efforts for New Orleans all season long.
A complete team effort is what it takes to beat a team like San Antonio and the Pelicans followed that formula beautifully. Jrue Holiday’s star shined brightest in the Smoothie King Center, leading all Pelicans with 23 points and 11 assists. Only managing to get to the free throw line once, Holiday did his damage from the perimeter, dropping midrange and three bombs on San Antonio all night long. His jumper was smooth as evidenced by a 10-17 shooting performance.
While Holiday was making hay from long distance, the rest of his Pelican teammates were hardly settling for jumpshots. New Orleans scored 60 points in the paint and had a +30 advantage over San Antonio in that department. Anthony Davis had a bit of an underwhelming night putting points on the board, 16 in all, but he compensated by tying a career-high mark of 22 rebounds. Terrence Jones chipped in with 21 points in 24 minutes and Dontas Motiejunas had 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in 22 minutes. The Davis-Motiejunas-Jones frontcourt tandem outplayed Kawhi Leonard, David Lee and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Not forgotten in the least, Solomon Hill gets his own special shoutout paragraph thanks to his hot hand from three. Hill hit five, count ‘em five, three pointers tonight and also collected six rebounds and a threw in a couple of assists. Credit where credit is due to the oft-maligned Solomon Hill.
Solomon Hill shot 5/7 on three-pointers vs. Spurs, 2nd time in #NBA career he's made more than 3 treys. He made 7 on 4/13/16 (Ind at Mil)— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) January 28, 2017
If the rebounding and three point shooting was good, the Pelican ball movement was even better. New Orleans had a very Spursian-like 29 assists on their 48 made field goals. The Pelicans all worked in tandem tonight to find the open man and make the extra pass. Good shots were sacrificed to make way for better shots. It’s nice when your starting point guard gets 11 assists, but when you have someone like Motiejunas being a facilitator or Tyreke Evans getting others engaged, that’s when the offense really revs its engine.
Friday’s win should hardly be considered a fluke performance as New Orleans straight up beat the Spurs. New Orleans out-muscled San Antonio for rebounds and points in the paint and moved the ball better. Defensively, they held San Antonio to 39 percent from the floor. Kawhi Leonard, who had entered tonight’s game with six straight games scoring 30 points or more, was held to 23. If it wasn’t for the free throw disparity slanted in San Antonio’s favor (29 attempts to New Orleans’ 14), New Orleans wins this one in a laugher.
After tonight’s game we know one thing about this Pelicans team: we know they’re capable of beating some absolute heavyweights in the league. How many teams can claim wins over the Cavs and Spurs over the course of the same week? We also know that this Pelican team can lay some absolute eggs (see getting beat by 29 by the Nets). This Pelican team is completely enigmatic and it’s damn near impossible to get a feel for how the rest of their season will play out. But there’s one thing I know with absolute certainty:
This New Orleans Pelican team just rocked the San Antonio Spurs.
So amped for this win! Have some San Antonio! Have all of this! pic.twitter.com/rxKcGp5GeY— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) January 28, 2017