After a heartbreaking loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, it was imperative the Pelicans came out swinging tonight. Swing they did. Jumping out to a nine-point lead in the first half, the Pelicans never looked back, denying the Mavericks enough throughout the second half.
The Mavericks have struggled heavily as a team this year. With a strange core of old vets and young role players, Dallas has had a hard time finding wins this season. Tonight, Harrison Barnes had 26 points and Dennis Smith Jr., 16, but there was little else to note. After their loss to the Pelicans, they are a league worst 1-9.
Despite the victory, the Pelicans once again proved that no lead is safe when New Orleans is on the floor — whether that be an opposing teams lead, or the Pelicans. This time around, it was the Pelicans turn to play ahead. While New Orleans was able to jump off to a quick lead, the Mavericks were able to close the gap, both at the end of the first quarter and the end of the fourth.
Thankfully, the Pelicans did enough.
Nine games into the season, it’s clear that the preseason hope that the Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins duo can work together is incredibly sound. The tandem put up amazing numbers again tonight. Boogie had a rare 20-point and 22-rebound game, and Davis sizzled with yet another 30-point effort. There will be nights like tonight, where the sheer force of the big men will bruise their way to victory as they create mismatches that other teams cannot keep up with.
On other nights though, the sheer creation of the mismatch won’t be enough; the Pelicans will have to learn how to exploit those mismatches as well. New Orleans struggled once again from the 3pt line, shooting only 24% from deep for the game. What’s more frustrating about this fact is the amount of wide open threes the guards seem to be missing. While AD and Boogie are able to attract double teams down low, they mean nothing if New Orleans cannot hit the open shots they create.
All eyes, once again, are on Jrue Holiday. After a bad game in Minneapolis, Pelican fans were hoping for a bounce back game tonight. Pelican fans were disappointed. Posting an abysmal six points on 3 for 13 shooting, including 0-4 from behind the arc, will not quiet skeptics. Holiday was shooting a woeful 28% from deep before the night even started.
Perhaps though, there is hope to be found sifting through the 7/29 performance from deep. Darius Miller, a sharpshooter in the Euro League last year, was supposed to come in and create some much needed space for this year. So far, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Coming into tonight’s game Miller was shooting a dreadful 13% from behind the arc.
Tonight, though, Darius was able to create some much needed momentum off the bench, going 3 for 5 on three-pointers. Of course, Miller still has a long way to go; he has a very specific problem of fouling more than any player I have ever witnessed before. Even tonight, in a foul lite game for him, he had two personal fouls in 12 minutes, including a flagrant foul. If Miller can get his fouling under control, perhaps he can become the three-point spark plug the team needs off the bench.
Perhaps the key to tonight’s win came less from the positive plays made, and more from the mistakes avoided. In the previous two games, both losses, the Pelicans wound up with a discouragingly large amount of turnovers — 19 in each contest. Tonight, New Orleans limited the messy mistakes to only 12 turnovers. The Pelicans shined bright in the first quarter, when they were able to jump off to an early lead by playing good defense and emphasizing ball security.
Somehow, someway, they need to next figure out how to better sustain early momentum. Facing better competition is going to demand it.
Either way, the Pelicans have their first back-to-back game tomorrow night against the Bulls in Chicago. Sometimes winning streaks have humble beginnings, lets cheers to that!