On a night the city of Sacramento cheered DeMarcus Cousins return, the New Orleans Pelicans managed to steal the show, tying for the third largest comeback in franchise history with a win over the Kings, 114-106.
Without Anthony Davis (left knee quad tendonitis) and trailing by as many as 19 points early in the third quarter, the Pelicans were staring at their fourth loss in five games to start the season. All of those fire-Alvin Gentry and Dell Demps chants were on the verge of getting infinity louder as the prospects of yet another slowest of starts out of the gates seemed all but certain.
But then a funny thing happened: New Orleans proceeded to enjoy their most successful stretch on the court to date, going on a 58-31 run over the final 22:16 of the game to steal a much needed victory.
Let’s start with the obvious MVP of the game. DeMarcus Cousins, who played an astounding 44 minutes, lived up to his billing and then some by finishing with 41 points, 23 rebounds, six assists and three triples.
Boogie resembled the Man of Steel, but for the first time this season, he had consistent help from the supporting cast not named Davis. Jameer Nelson made his presence felt first, notching 11 crucial points in what was a disastrous opening quarter for the Pelicans. The Kings came out of the gates on fire, and had it not been for the reserve point guard’s timely contributions, a 40-27 shellacking in the first frame would have been more damaging.
In the second, E’Twaun Moore stepped up to the plate, scoring nine of his 12 points. But despite he and Boogie carrying the offense well, New Orleans still found themselves down 14 points at intermission as defensive lapses throughout the first half cost the Pelicans dearly.
Following a Buddy Hield jumper at the 10:44 mark of the third quarter, the Pelicans trailed 75-56, but to their credit, they simply refused to go quietly into the night. And the man who spearheaded the monumental charge? None other than New Orleans $126 million dollar man.
During the Pelicans pivotal 24-4 run over the next eight minutes, Jrue Holiday was responsible for 11 points, making 4 of 5 from the field which included a couple of key three-pointers. The supposed third member of the Big Three, who had largely been missing in action on offense since the start of the season, played like the confident difference maker we have missed since DeMarcus Cousins first arrived in New Orleans.
For the rest of the game, the roster chipped in their support of Boogie, who played like a man that refused to lose or take a rest break. We even had a Tony Allen sighting. Despite the Grindfather attempting several ill-fated jumpers, he was a positive overall at the small forward position — more on this in the notes.
Although the Kings briefly retook the lead with 2:36 to go following a Willie Cauley-Stein alley-oop from De’Aaron Fox (who is going to be a star, folks), Boogie came right back and drilled a three-pointer on the Pelicans ensuing possession to put the team up for good.
A win’s a win and a record of 2-3 is most certainly leaps and bounds better than a 1-4 start!
Notes and Observations
- Jameer Nelson needs to be moved into the starting lineup for the Cleveland Cavaliers matchup, but if Gentry’s adjustment out of halftime was any indication, it’s all but a formality at this point. Simply put, the offense flows better with the veteran on the floor, and with Holiday easily having his best game of the season after spending 28 of his 41 minutes alongside Nelson, it’s a no-brainer.
- Starting Darius Miller and Dante Cunningham on the wings went about as well as expected: please insert your favorite poo emoji. Although Dante is hopefully just in the midst of a Holiday-like slump (Did everyone catch all the wide open misses including an uncontested layup?), those two cannot be allowed to share the floor anytime soon. Miller, sadly, looks like the same player that left for Germany over two years ago — unable to positively affect the game in any which way. Solomon Hill, get well soon!
- If Nelson joins the starting lineup, the coaching staff should consider throwing Allen into the first five, too. As just mentioned, Cunningham and Miller are giving the Pelicans very little right now so why not give the energetic defender a shot? A bench unit consisting of Ian Clark, Moore, Cunningham and either Cheick Diallo or Josh Smith seems like a recipe worth trying.
- ICYMI, Smith and the Pelicans were unable to come to terms on a contract agreement before the start of the Kings game.