Boy, the New Orleans Pelicans and their wavering fan base needed this one.
Following a potentially devastating night in Utah, where the Pelicans coughed up a 16-point lead and lost Anthony Davis to a pelvis injury — that has yet to be accompanied by a timetable, few, if any, expected New Orleans to steal a victory on the second night of a back-to-back in Portland!
The final score of 123-116 is nice, but honestly, it doesn’t reward New Orleans enough for their collective effort, especially after trailing 31-17 with 2:22 to go in the first quarter. The Trail Blazers started out hot from the floor, but once they cooled, the Pelicans pounced. The most enlightening aspect was that everyone who played, contributed.
“I thought DeMarcus was great, but I thought it was really, truly a team win,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “I thought everybody came in... Omer gave us great minutes, just to be able to relieve DeMarcus and him not play long stretches of minutes. I thought he did a great job. Dante did a great job of rebounding the basketball. I just thought that everybody contributed. Rondo had another double-double. It was just a really good team win.”
While the entire roster was productive, the star of the night was none other than the Pelicans remaining healthy All-NBA player, DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie finished with 38 points and eight rebounds, but it was the maturity in his play that impressed most.
DeMarcus Cousins and Meyers Leonard, still not friends pic.twitter.com/dsdTaYAQQI— Justin Jett (@JustinJett_) December 3, 2017
Multiple times Meyers Leonard attempted to get inside Cousins’ head with physical play and hard fouls, yet Boogie never once took the bait. Considering these two have a confrontational history, that’s a hell of an accomplishment.
Cousins calmly dismantling Jusuf Nurkic, Leonard and anyone else Terry Stotts threw at him was bar none the biggest difference maker, but all of the role players deserve individual credit as well for stepping up in AD’s absence.
- Dante Cunningham started in place of Davis, and while he only played 14 minutes, he managed to grab a season-high 12 rebounds to go along with eight points and a couple of three-pointers. His aggressive play was pure delight.
- For a second straight game, Rajon Rondo posted a double-double in points and assists; however, for the first time all season, he made multiple three-pointers. Hey all, he appears to be getting his legs.
- There’s no denying Omer Asik’s 14 minutes allowed Gentry to keep Cousins fresh, but the former starting center did a great job on the glass, limiting Portland to just one shot when the Pelicans made their run to get back into the game. How timely was Asik’s return with Davis going down?
- Darius Miller, Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen — the perimeter bench mob — were largely responsible for leading the Pelicans out of their first quarter 14-point abyss. Miller played a season-high 34 minutes, and while he did add a couple more made threes to his season total, I was more enamored with the rest of his game. He’s really evolving into a multiple offensive threat as several of his assists were of the great variety.
- Jrue Holiday started the game slowly, converting on just one of his first six shots, yet he finished making six of his final 12 attempts. Overall, Holiday totaled 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds, but don’t forget to factor in his defense. He did a great job of helping limit C.J. McCollum to 17 points on 22 shots.
- While Jrue took a while to get going offensively, E’Twaun Moore started out already on fire. For the game, he missed just one attempt but made all four of his three-pointers. 19 points on seven attempts are the stuff that dreams are made of for hoops nerds.
The New Orleans Pelicans scored 98 points through the first three quarters on the second best defense entering the night according to NBA Stats defensive rating statistic...without Anthony Davis....while playing in Portland — where New Orleans had registered just one win in their previous 13 trips!!!
Yes, Portland almost made things interesting during the final frame, but New Orleans fought through the adversity well as they didn’t allow McCollum or Damian Lillard to start raining threes. Limiting the Trail Blazers two biggest weapons to 46 points on 47 shots on their floor deserves applause.
With the victory, the Pelicans snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the night two games ahead of the ninth place Oklahoma City Thunder. Just 1.5 games separates New Orleans from the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings.
Up next, the Pelicans host the Golden State Warriors on Monday for the final time this season in the Smoothie King Center. See you there!