They’ve played only two games, but it’s readily apparent these are not the New Orleans Pelicans you’re accustomed to seeing at the beginning of every season.
On Wednesday evening, the Houston Rockets wound up on the wrong side of a 131-112 score, and then on Friday in the home opener, the Pelicans annihilated the lesser Sacramento Kings by a 149-129 margin — setting a new franchise record for points in the process.
In each of the previous three campaigns, the team slogged out to 0-2 starts, and during the first week of regular season action, names on the injury list were as commonplace as items left to check off on a busy person’s to-do list. Premature talk about the playoffs was just plain foolhardy, sure to elicit a number of good cackles from any other brave followers of the team.
Times have certainly changed.
The Pelicans are currently exhibiting the most exciting brand of basketball in the league, averaging a league-best 140 points per game and shooting a scorching 62.7 eFG%. For the first time in his professional career, Anthony Davis has started a season 2-0, and he’s relishing every minute of being “the guy,” both on and off the court. And regarding the core surrounding the superstar, who much to the chagrin of many outsiders is undoubtedly the super early MVP favorite, they’re all healthy and having a blast of throwing haymakers and uppercuts at opponents every time down the floor.
Friday’s foe, the Sacramento Kings, were fresh off pushing the Utah Jazz to the 48th minute of their matchup. Davis, Jrue Holiday, Elfrid Payton and E’Twaun Moore — four of the five starters — didn’t even need to step out onto the floor during the fourth quarter. And the fifth — Nikola Mirotic — never wanted to take a seat on the bench, as he was flying high inside the Smoothie King Center with a new career-high of 36 points.
“Man, I can’t explain that feeling,” responded a smiling Mirotic. “That’s the chemistry, and you see how happy they are to see somebody playing well. At that moment I was hot so they were running plays for me.”
Through two games, Niko has been a flame-thrower from three-point range, connecting on 11 of his 17 three-point attempts.
For his incredible feat of posting back-to-back games of 30 points or more, Jrue Holiday now owes Niko a bottle of wine, and Paul Pierce needs to get on the phone and issue one hell of an apology because it’s becoming a safe bet that more high scoring performances are on tap.
┻┳|— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 20, 2018
┻┳| •.•) psst @paulpierce34
┳┻|⊂ﾉ Niko scored 30 again
The Kings are not a team devoid of talent. They have plenty of athletes and young guns who are in need of seasoning — a combination that would have given the Pelicans trouble in the past regardless of the W/L record. However, New Orleans literally toyed with them before putting the game out of reach.
The Pelicans raced out to a 29-19 lead and soon totaled 40 points in the first quarter. Funny thing is, they played far from perfect basketball up to that point. The Kings held a decisive 8-2 edge in fast break points, shot over 50% from the field and had committed two turnovers to the Pelicans four.
Things managed to take a turn for the worse in the second frame as the Kings knotted up the score at 56, but following a timeout — where the Pelicans decided it would be best to get after it defensively before intermission — New Orleans flashed their superiority. Two steals resulted in two easy layups, and shortly thereafter, the crowd cheered mightily for Jrue Holiday after hounding Buddy Hield bring the ball up the floor. Onlookers cheered for a player moving his feet, anticipating the ball-handlers path and exuding plenty of defensive effort. It was glorious so lets hope this will become a regular event!
That will show up on a defensive highlight reel, @Jrue_Holiday11.#DoItBig pic.twitter.com/dyxKXHxGBi— FOXSports NewOrleans (@FOXSportsNOLA) October 20, 2018
When it was time to get serious, the Pelicans flipped a switch, and they left it on until halftime and then throughout the third quarter. With 8:34 to go in the fourth, Mirotic’s final bomb of the night expanded the lead to 28 points at 128-100. After that, the reserves got in on the fun, while the starters enjoyed plenty of deserving rest.
Ian Clark made his first appearance of the season and he didn’t miss a shot in four attempts, finishing with 13 points in 18 minutes. Both Jahlil Okafor and Cheick Diallo found the court and finished with 4 points apiece. Darius Miller knocked down three 3-pointers and Tim Frazier also stepped onto the court in a New Orleans uniform for the first time since April 12, 2017. In all, eight different Pelicans made at least one three and all 13 dressed players received minutes, with Wesley Johnson and Kenrich Williams inactive and watching from the sidelines.
After the big win over the Rockets, many quickly responded it was just one game. Friday night’s 20-point victory over the Kings makes it only two out of eighty-two. However, multiple games in similar fashion are considered a trend so everyone should be loving on what they’re seeing right now out of the New Orleans Pelicans, one of just four teams in the league with a perfect 2-0 record.