Of all the things that have or probably will surprise me this NBA season, I doubt anything will top what the Pelicans did to the Hawks in their first matchup of the season in Atlanta: a 112-94 complete and thorough thrashing.
In terms of overall surprising-ness, I give the Pelicans win over the Hawks a solid seven out of ten. That’s ahead of the Browns winning a football game this year but slightly behind Marissa Tomei winning the 1992 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
The game was over almost as soon as it started as New Orleans raced out to a 34-14 lead after the first quarter and a 66-44 lead at halftime. But perhaps most surprising of all was how thorough the win was without a lengthy Anthony Davis performance. Davis banged his knee on a chair after diving for a ball and was only on the court for only 19 minutes. He missed the entirety of both the second and third quarters but the Pelicans never skipped a beat.
Tim Frazier had one of the best nights of his career with 21 points and a season high 14 assists. Terrence Jones did an admirable job filling in for Anthony Davis with 17 points and 6 rebounds. And Jrue Holiday did a little bit of everything coming off the bench scoring 15 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, handing out an additional 4 assists and collecting a pair of steals in 27 minutes of work. Essentially every single Pelican contributed mightily that night in Atlanta and the 18-point margin of victory doesn’t properly describe just how much of a butt kicking the game was.
Atlanta’s a team that’s been struggling to tread water this season. Since the month of November, the Hawks have been at or below .500 and their point differential is worsening as the months go by. A 3-0 October start with a +19.3 point differential slipped to a -1.4 in November and fell again to -6.7 in December.
However, it must be mentioned that the Hawks ended 2016 on a high note, with wins over the Knicks and Pistons, and they rang in the new year with a win over San Antonio. Since their terrible 1-10 run from mid November to early December, the Hawks have won 8 of 12 and climbed back up into fifth place in the East.
Atlanta’s a hard team to get a feel for. Over their last 12 games they’ve played arguably their best basketball of the season and yet the only category that they rank in the top-10 is rebounding. Is it smoke and mirrors? Are the Hawks a classic whole is greater than the sum of its part team? And it’s not like Atlanta’s been beating up on the league’s bottom feeders, they have the aforementioned win over the Spurs plus W’s over the Bucks, Raptors and Thunder.
The Hawks are coming into the Smoothie King Center on a bit of a tear, playing some of it’s best basketball of the season, and will have payback on their minds. But this Pelican team that will take the court opposite Atlanta isn’t the same group that beat them so convincingly in November. It’s better...but will the good version show up?
What: Pelicans vs. Hawks
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
When: January 5th at 7:00 PM Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports Southeast or 99.5 FM WRNO