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New Orleans Pelicans hold off Charlotte Hornets behind balanced attack in 101-96 victory

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The team from New Orleans beat the team from Charlotte. Where have I heard that before?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t the prettiest game of basketball ever played, but the New Orleans Pelicans went on the road and took care of business in Charlotte, getting out of the Spectrum Center with a 101-96 win over the Hornets.

The game started off nicely enough for New Orleans, as they had a 32-21 advantage after the first quarter. The Pelicans shot 52 percent from the floor with Anthony Davis (10 points) and Rajon Rondo (9 points) leading the way, but the Hornets, who are a tough out at home, gave New Orleans just about all they could handle for the rest of the game.

It started with the Hornets giving the Pelicans a taste of their own medicine, winning the second quarter by a sizable margin (32-24). Frank Kaminsky was having an out of body experience with nine points in a little under eight minutes coming off the bench. Marvin Williams and Kemba Walker combined for 14 points.

Of course, no Pelican collapse would be complete without a flourish of turnovers and New Orleans had plenty of those on hand. At the half, New Orleans had turned it over 11 times and allowed Charlotte to get 13 points off of them. The Pelicans are a better team than the Hornets, but when you give away 13 points, this funny thing happens where you let the bad teams hang around with you.

The third quarter was hard to stomach — but at least it’s expected around these parts!

New Orleans shot 35 percent from the floor but at least Charlotte could only hit around 39 percent of their attempts. And the three ball? Yeesh. The two teams combined to make two of 15 threes which...yeah.

The lone three-ball New Orleans converted was a big shot, though. With the clock running down, Jameer Nelson drove to the rim, causing the Hornet defense to collapse, and then whipped the ball into the awaiting arms of Darius Miler for a buzzer-beating, game-tying three. Go back and watch that play again and you’ll see Dante Cunningham set a small screen, freeing Miller for the shot.

That’s A+ execution.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair and, to me, the game was decided on a Nelson shot-clock beating three. Quite frankly, if Jameer Nelson prayers are being answered, it’s your night. Those are just the rules.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit Anthony Davis for having impeccable timing in coming up with a game-sealing steal late in the game. Kemba Walker tried getting the ball into the paint to Dwight Howard and Davis read the play the whole way through and popped in front of Howard like Tracy Porter did to Reggie Wayne in Super Bowl 44.

With the win, the Pelicans improve to 26-21 on the year and are a season best five games over .500. New Orleans, winners of six of their last seven games, have a day off before entertaining the Houston Rockets inside the Smoothie King Center on Friday evening.

The Pelicans are like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Django Unchained: when they beat Boston in Boston, they caught the league’s curiosity. Beat Houston Friday night? Then they’ll have the league’s attention for sure.

Game Notes

  • A balanced attack was tonight’s recipe for success: No one topped the 20-point plateau, but eight different players scored eight or more points.
  • Jrue Holiday was spectacular down the stretch, scoring six huge points inside the final 2:30 of the game to give the Pelicans a lead they would never relinquish. He and Anthony Davis paced New Orleans with 19 points apiece.
  • The bench played well enough to give the starters a larger than normal breather. Cunningham was aggressive on the glass and in the scoring column. There was an Omer Asik sighting and he patrolled the paint well. And as mentioned, Nelson and Miller knocked down some big shots.
  • Despite totaling nine points and five assists, Rajon Rondo received only 15 minutes of playing time — the third time that’s happened this month.

Geaux Pels!