It was all set up for New Orleans to suffer their second let down in three nights.
Like they have done so often this year, the Pelicans got off to a hot start in the first half, showing you again why this team could crash the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
New Orleans held a 66-55 advantage going into the break; Anthony Davis was back both in body and in presence scoring 15 points. Davis was responsible for the first seven points and nine of the opening 13. Rajon Rondo had 10 assists in the first half alone and found E’Twaun Moore for a three with less than a second remaining to cap off an 8-0 run that gave New Orleans that aforementioned 11-point lead at the break. DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points, Jrue Holiday had eight and Philadelphia was without Robert Covington, TJ McConnell and Joel Embiid — everything was set up for New Orleans to run away with the game after the break and maybe get the starters some rest ahead of their back-to-back game in Houston.
Then the third quarter happened and New Orleans, again, wasted all of their efforts shown in the first half.
The 76ers nearly doubled up the Pelicans by outscoring them 40-21. Read that again: 40-21!!! Philadelphia opened things up on a 16-6 run and was absolutely merciless on the glass. The Sixers collected 10 offensive boards in the third quarter alone and commanded a 19-6 rebounding advantage over the Pelicans for the frame. In the third, the Sixers showed no sign of playing the night before in Cleveland and simply played harder than New Orleans by beating them to the ball.
Case in point, newly acquired Trevor Booker had eight points and five rebounds, four on the offensive end, in a five minute span in the third. JJ Redick had 11 points, and Ben Simmons was the maestro for Philadelphia and had a +16 for the quarter. The 76ers also took advantage of New Orleans’ carelessness with the ball in the quarter, forcing eight turnovers and getting 11 points off of them.
Philadelphia entered the fourth quarter up 95-87 and seemed to be on their way to snapping a three-game losing streak and forcing New Orleans to swallow a 1-3 record on a four-game home stand.
That was until Jrue Holiday, and the Pelican offense as a whole, ignited in the fourth.
New Orleans scored 44 points in the fourth, a season high, and Holiday was the catalyst. The Pelicans shooting guard scored 19 points and hit five of eight threes to give him a game-high 34 points. New Orleans hit their first 11 shots, including all five threes, which was capped off by three straight makes, two by Holiday and the third by Davis.
New Orleans finished the explosive quarter shooting 76 percent from the floor, making eight of 10 three-point attempts and converting all four of their free throws. The Pelicans had 11 assists on 16 made baskets and put a stop to their turnover woes from the third with only two in the fourth. New Orleans also finally out-rebounded Philadelphia by grabbing 11 in the quarter. Consider this, Anthony Davis had as many rebounds by himself, four, as the entire 76er team in the fourth.
Moving forward the Pelicans now turn their attention to the team with the best record in basketball, the Houston Rockets. Playing a division opponent on the road to cap off a back-to-back is never an enviable situation, but if New Orleans can carry over the effort shown in the first half and fourth quarter, a win streak could just maybe be on the horizon?
- Tony Allen left the game with 3:45 in the first quarter after bumping knees with Philly’s Amir Johnson and there was no definitive update in postgame.
- Joel Embiid was expected to start after taking the previous night off for rest in Cleveland, but was held out again after complaining of lower back tightness during warmups.
- That meant Philadelphia was out three key contributors: Embiid, Covington and McConnell. Despite that, Philly had a lead going into the fourth because the roster is as deep and as talented as it’s been in quite some time.
- Ben Simmons: good at basketball. Simmons had 27 points and 10 assists and had a rare good night from the free throw line, hitting seven of nine attempts.
- Anthony Davis had 29 points and shot an efficient 58 percent from the floor.
- Without Embiid, Philadelphia had absolutely no answer for DeMarcus Cousins. In less than 30 minutes of playing time, Cousins had 23 points and nine rebounds; his five fouls kept him from exerting even more destruction upon the Process Trusters.
- Cousins also gets good teammate points after reportedly turning down a chance to enter the game with six minutes to play in the fourth. Alvin Gentry was going to swap him for Davis or Dante Cunningham but Cousins wanted to “let the group ride.” The group would go on to ride a 26-5 run to push the game out of reach.
- Rajon Rondo finished the night with 18 assists. Seems pretty good imo.