Tonight was an important game for the New Orleans Pelicans.
It wasn’t so much the opponent that made Friday’s game so paramount, but rather, who’s awaiting the Pelicans the following evening. New Orleans is in the midst of one of the more polarizing back-to-backs of the year: Tonight featured the hapless Suns and tomorrow will be the true test as the Pelicans head to California to face the Golden State Warriors.
New Orleans made sure to take care of business first, cruising to a 115-91 win over the Phoenix Suns — that was even more lopsided than the final score indicates.
From the start, New Orleans was in full control. The Pelicans led 33-21 after the first quarter and shot 62 percent from the floor. Anthony Davis hit on three of his first four shots, DeMarcus Cousins was five for nine (and hit two of his first three three-pointers), and even Rajon Rondo found some easy paths to the basket, laying in two of his first three attempts.
By halftime the game was all but decided, with New Orleans heading into the locker room and a 72-42 lead. The Pelicans shot 58 percent from the floor and hit nine of 15 threes. In addition to the points and shooting percentages, New Orleans had the edge over Phoenix in rebounding, assists, blocks, steals and points in the paint.
Ball movement has been a real strength of New Orleans’ in recent games. Coming into tonight, New Orleans had 20 or more assists in 14 consecutive games, which is the second longest streak behind the Warriors (duh).
It took some time for the ball movement to get going against the Suns, but as the NFL would say about their Thursday Night game, “when it was on...it was on!” There was one stretch late in the first quarter through halftime where New Orleans assisted on 15 of 21 made baskets. Rondo was feeding Anthony Davis; DeMarcus Cousins was hitting a cutting Jrue Holiday; Jameer Nelson was dishing it out to Darius Miller... you get the picture. The Pelicans again did a wonderful job making the extra pass tonight and finished with 29 assists on 45 field goals.
To say New Orleans only won by 24 is unfair to the effort shown by the Pelicans. New Orleans flat out dominated Phoenix. The Pelicans had a season-best 72 points at the half and led by as many as 35 points before taking their foot off the gas and giving the starters the rest of the night off. Had it not been for 16 turnovers and allowing 22 fast break points, New Orleans could have had this game wrapped up by the end of the first quarter.
Defensively, New Orleans made life miserable for Phoenix. The Suns shot 39 percent from the floor and only hit two of 20 attempted threes. Jrue Holiday in particular did an outstanding job hounding Devin Booker. Booker was held to 4-13 from the field, missed all five of his threes, and turned it over six times.
Tonight’s objective was simple: get ahead early, keep the Suns well in the rear view mirror, and get the starters outta there.
- There was so much good tonight from so many different players it’s hard to single any one performance out.
- That said Anthony Davis had 23 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes. DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. AD had a +20 plus/minus, Big Cuz, +19.
- Personally I’d say Jrue Holiday was tonight’s best player thanks to his 18 points, five steals and the aforementioned taking of Devin Booker’s lunch money.
- Rajon Rondo did a little bit of everything tonight with six points, seven assists, four rebounds, a pair of blocks and a steal.
- Darius Miller provided an instant boost of offense coming off the bench yet again, hitting on three of his first four three pointers. Let’s get this man in the three point contest!
- Tonight’s best plus/minus goes to...Dante Cunningham! Cunningham had a game-high +24 when he was on the court and winning at least several 50/50 balls in the first half definitely helped the Pelicans keep momentum.
- Omer Asik made his return to the floor after overcoming his recent health issues. Asik played 11 minutes in the fourth quarter, scored six points, and received all kinds of love from Boogie.
Need a Boogie in my life every time im at bar and too scared to ask for a number pic.twitter.com/ELSlRoOG6o— #JaValeAndSwaggyAfterDark (@World_Wide_Wob) November 25, 2017
- Strange but true: neither New Orleans nor Phoenix hit a three pointer in the second half.