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New Orleans Pelicans come back from 19 points down to beat New York Knicks, 129-124

The Pels post their third largest come from behind victory in franchise history.

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans escaped with a victory over the New York Knicks in a game in which they trailed by as many as 19 points, and never led until the 2:33 mark of the fourth quarter. The comeback is the Pelicans third largest in franchise history.

Anthony Davis recently told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he needs to be almost perfect to give the Pelicans a chance to grab the victory every night, and it’s difficult to argue with the results witnessed Friday. Davis exploded for 21 points in the second quarter, and finished with a line of 43 points, 17 rebounds, and five assists on 16/25 shooting and 10/15 from the free throw stripe.

“Defense,” Davis said. “We gave them too many points in the first half. We came out in the second half and defended. Able to finally make some shots. We just grinded. About seven minutes to go, I think we were down nine, I told Jrue, we’re not losing this game. Jrue took over. Guys made big defensive plays, and we came out with the win.”

The Pelicans used a 75-point second half, and a decisive fourth quarter finish, in which they won 41-30, to end the Knicks’ hopes of the potential upset.

But, honestly, the game should have never been so close. Not after finally re-inserting the starting point guard and Nola native Elfrid Payton back into the lineup after having missed the past 9 games with a sprained ankle.

With the Pelicans’ net rating of +38 per 100 possessions when Payton - Holiday - Moore - Niko - AD saw the floor as a five man unit, the Pelicans were seemingly destined to resume juggernaut status against the 25th rated defense in the NBA, and the fourth-worst team in the NBA standings at 4-11.

First Quarter

And yet it got worse from there.

With Tim Hardaway Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay combining for 15 of the Knicks’ first 22 points, and the Pelicans turning the ball over SEVEN times in the opening frame, New York raced out to a 32-16 first quarter lead. Two first quarter timeouts seemingly couldn’t enthuse what was once an unstoppable starting unit through the first four regular season games.

Pelicans fans had long looked to the Gretna native as its savior after faltering all the way to seventh offensively in his absence. But in his brief return due to the aforementioned ankle, Elfrid Payton was a -12 net negative in his eight minutes, obviously rusty in shooting 0-3 from the field with one turnover. That would be all the playing time he would see as Payton and Pelicans’ fans would be subjected to even more bad news.

“It’ll be a day to day thing,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’ll find out a lot more tomorrow. ... I feel bad for him.” - via Andrew Lopez

The Pelicans came out flat in every respect, being beaten on the boards badly, giving up easy buckets in transition, shooting poorly from the field (7/23), and just being outplayed and out-hustled in every respect.

“We started the game missing a bunch of easy shots,” Gentry said. “We didn’t get back on defense. ... From there it was an uphill battle the rest of the way.” - via Andrew Lopez

For whatever the reason the team got off to an ultra-sluggish start, it was apparent that Gentry’s early two timeouts didn’t seem to alter the team’s mood following successive (14-7, 18-9) runs by a 4-11 team starting three rookies (one being a second-rounder and one undrafted).

Second Quarter

Trailing by double digits in the first half shouldn’t feel new to the Pelicans after trailing by 21 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. The Knicks would bring their lead up to 37-18 before the Pelicans had seemingly had enough.

By the Pelicans, I mean Anthony Davis, who exploded for 21 second-quarter points after scoring just two in the opening frame. He finally began attacking the basket, getting to the line nine times in the second frame, while hitting seven of them.

At 39-20, the Pelicans finally rattled off a 9-1 run, highlighted by one of four three-point plays by Davis in the second quarter.

The run would extend itself to 17-5 as the Pelicans finally reined in their woeful turnover problem, turning the rock over on just one occasion in the second quarter, and bridging the gap to ten points by the end of the second frame. However, the Knicks dominated in nearly every other facet outside of Davis in the first half, leading 64-54, all while being led by a starting unit of youngsters who each posted a +11 or better. Mudiay led with 16 points, while Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke each scored 12.

The Knicks shot 49% from the field and dominated the boards at 32-22, including eight offensive rebounds, and led in fast break points, 14-4.

The Pelicans were paced by Davis who scored 21 of his 23 in the second and collected seven rebounds and four assists. Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle both had nine for the Pelicans, and Jrue Holiday had eight to go along with three costly turnovers.

Third Quarter

If the second quarter belonged to Anthony Davis, E’Twaun Moore took charge in the third as he compiled nine of the Pelicans’ first 15 points to enter the frame, and 11 overall. It wasn’t all rainbows and rose petals as Julius Randle inexplicably halted the Pelicans’ comeback with three confounding possessions in a row: One of which resulted in travel, and two in offensive fouls, all against smaller back court players. But the combination of AD and Moore did bridge the gap to as little as three points, 84-81, and bring the Smoothie King Center alive, albeit briefly.

AD and Moore surged out to runs of 9-3, 7-2, and 9-2 again, but it was never enough to clear the biggest hump as the Knicks responded each and every time. For all the good the Pelicans did, they still couldn’t get out of their own way. After an Ian Clark lay-up brought the Pels to within six with 6.3 to play, Allonzo Trier went the distance for the easy lay-in as time expired in the third, significantly dampening the momentum.

Fourth Quarter

A back and forth battle through the first five minutes got the Pelicans no closer.

As Frank Jackson subbed out for Darius Miller, the Pelicans surged out to a 9-0 run, closing the gap to 114-112 and gave Pelicans’ fans the effort they’d been hoping to see all game long.

But as the Knicks had done all night, they responded on a put-back by Robinson and a runner by Trey Burke, who extended the lead back to six, 118-112.

Two more baskets in the restricted area by Anthony Davis and E’Twaun Moore again pulled the Pelicans within two, before Hardaway Jr. found himself again at the line where he would sink just one freebie.

The Pelicans would capitalize on the momentum of the missed baskets, as Randle would score six of the Pelicans’ next eight points, mostly on sheer will and athleticism.

Leading by just one, 121-120, Anthony Davis would go to the line and miss both free throw attempts, yet Julius Randle was there for the save, charging down the lane and converting the put-back. One Jrue Holiday dagger three later, and that was all she wrote for a Knicks’ team that had to be devastated after playing well enough to win through the first three and a half quarters.

To go along with AD’s 43/16/5, Holiday finished with a line of 22 points, 10 rebounds and four rebounds on 9/18 shooting including 3/5 from deep, Moore scored 13, Nikola Mirotic — who didn’t look quite right on that tender ankle — a 12/10 double-double, and Julius Randle’s 19 points and 11 rebounds on 7/10 shooting.

Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 30 points on 23 shots, Trey Burke had 24, Emmanuel Mudiay had 19, and Kevin Knox had 11.

After being dominated on the boards in the first half, the Pels responded well out of halftime and won the battle on the glass decisively, 54-44. They finished with 68 points in the paint, 20 fastbreak points (16 in second half) and 27 assists on 48 made shots to just 15 turnovers.

It was good to see Frank Jackson earn his first minutes in the regular rotation since the Portland matchup on November 1st, and he responded by scoring six key points in twelve minutes.

Next up, the Pelicans will look to make amends for an earlier loss as they host the Denver Nuggets tomorrow night in the Smoothie King Center.

Let’s geaux Pels!