Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, again, did the heavy lifting on offense, including two critical offensive rebounds in the final seconds to lead the Pelicans to victory. Davis led the way with 37 points (on an absurd 14-18 shooting night including four 3-pointers) and 14 rebounds while Cousins was no slouch himself, posting 32 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists.
For the 2nd time this season, Anthony Davis (37 PTS, 14 REBS) & DeMarcus Cousins (32 PTS, 13 REBS) both record 30+ PTS & 10+ REBS in the same game. pic.twitter.com/x7x9UfqTtm— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) November 8, 2017
Before we hit the most critical moments of the game, let’s first revisit the three keys to victory from our game preview.
Defend the 3-point line: A mixed bag here. Indiana shot 9-24 behind the arc and had far too many open looks at the rim for my liking. There’s still room for improvement in this area.
Attack the glass: New Orleans won the rebounding battle by a slim margin (43-41), but those second chance points proved to be a deciding factor. The Pelicans racked up 20 second chance points tonight, their second highest total of the season. Indiana is now 0-5 when they lose the rebounding battle.
Role player contributor of the night: I had hoped it would be Jrue Holiday, but foul trouble stymied him in the first half and his shot selection (and inability to can free throws in the final seconds) almost proved disastrous. No, tonight’s best role player was none other than Darius Miller, who has been positively scorching on this road trip. Miller scored 12 points on just six shot attempts and even his misses behind the arc had an air of absolute confidence. He’s taking open looks and even bombing away on handoffs when opponent go under the screen. After falling completely out of the rotation for four games, Miller is shooting 9-16 behind the arc on this road trip. In the first quarter he even took rookie T.J. Leaf off the dribble for an easy layup. I had to rewind it really quick to make sure!
Let’s dive into the game now, shall we?
The first half was a bit of a train wreck. New Orleans allowed a few too many easy shots, but Indiana knocked down some pretty low percentage looks in front of their home crowd. Regardless of the defense, the Pelicans compounded the issue with nine first half turnovers. When Indiana is knocking down flailing runners and turnaround prayers -- looking at you Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson, it’s difficult to defend the Pacers going 13-15 inside the restricted area (thanks in part to those turnovers leading to easy transition buckets).
Thankfully, the Pelicans kept it close with some hot shooting of their own. Yet, if you’ve been following along this season, a strong start out of halftime has been elusive, so some doubt was warranted.
Not so fast.
DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis put on quite possibly their best quarter of the season out of the break. A quick 6-0 run got things started and suddenly New Orleans could not be stopped. They scored on nine of their first 11 possessions and a 14-point deficit shrunk to just three. Cousins and Davis continued to pound away, and at the end of the fourth, the Pelicans held a slim lead. New Orleans did not commit a turnover in the critical third quarter while forced four out of the Pacers.
While the third quarter was elegant, the fourth was defined by grit and determination. Both teams went cold and the Pelicans offense ground to a familiar stand still. While it wasn’t pretty, a couple of forced turnovers led to layups for Davis and Tony Allen — yes, Tony Allen is closing games — to keep the points piling up on the scoreboard.
Clinging to a one-point lead, Jrue Holiday went to the free throw line with 20 seconds left. He buried the first, but clanked the second badly. No matter, as Anthony Davis soared above the surrounding Pacers to grab the rebound, fall to the floor, and deftly call for a timeout before a jump ball could be called.
A second trip to the line, now up two, gave Holiday the chance to ice the game with 16 seconds left. Holiday nailed the first, but the second was long and left. DeMarcus Cousins, boxed out by two Pacers, still managed to get a hand on the carom and tip it in to give you the final five-point margin. He ran all the way back to the bench with his right hand raised skyward, waving farewell to the Pacer faithful.
There are still kinks to work out, absolutely. But, that’s three straight wins and a record above .500 for the first time since April 2015. Indiana isn’t a bad team and the Pelicans overcame another substantial deficit at halftime to pull out a win. Let’s hope the defense can start out stronger in Toronto on Thursday night. Sweeping a four game road trip is within sight!
Can you believe it?