You should remember this team from New York.
Last week, the Pelicans were flying high with three straight victories before faltering against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 107-100. Two nights later, there were the Knicks jumping all over the plummeting Pels, with a 19-point advantage early in the second period in front of an aghast Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans was facing a frightening storyline.
In a desperate year for the franchise, the Pelicans, led by Anthony Davis, would storm back. They pulled within three (84-81) following a 14-footer by their superstar in the third quarter, but the Knicks would respond as they did all game with a 10-3 run. An 11-point lead with 7:22 in the final frame should have been enough to seal it, but that’s when the Pelicans dialed up the intensity level, taking their first lead with 2:32 remaining, and closing with a 29-13 sprint to the end of regulation.
A 129-124 victory kicked off another three-game winning streak, and a spectacular offensive performance from Davis saw a final stat line worthy of an MVP candidate. Anthony Davis recently told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he needed to be almost perfect to give the Pelicans a chance at victory, and his words proved fruitful that night as 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.”
While AD would take the mantle of game’s most valuable, it was Randle’s athleticism that gave the Pelicans the play of the game and the deciding points.
“Julius saved me when I missed two free throws at the end,” Davis said. “When I missed (the second one), I kind of put my head down a little bit and I seen a blue jersey flying in. So when he made it, I said, `Thank you.’ I don’t know where he came from, but wherever he came from, I appreciate it.”
Randle has been a revelation this season, and was critical in securing the win with 19 points and 11 boards on 7/10 shooting from the field. Holiday put in a modest 24 points, ten assists and four rebounds with four turnovers. E’Twaun Moore and Nikola Mirotic added 13 and 11, respectively.
Since that time, the Knicks were soundly defeated in Orlando, fell short in Portland before upending the fast-falling Boston Celtics. The Knicks have been dreadful at home (2-7), but lucky for them, the Pelicans have been just as bad on the road this season (2-7).
The Pelicans will need to slow down Tim Hardaway Jr. (30 points on 9/23) and Emmanuel Mudiay (19 on 8/12), who surged out in the first quarter to 15 of the Knicks’ first 22 points. Trey Burke is having a nice season and torched the Pelicans on the bench with 24 points on an excruciating-hot 10/13 shooting.
The Pelicans will also need to shore up the boards, and keep offensive rebounding machine Enes Kanter out of the paint. Though the Pelicans would win the battle of the boards 54-44, the Knicks used a decided 32-22 advantage in the first half to enhance their advantage on the scoreboard.
The Knicks are 19th in pace, 21st in offensive rating and 27th in defensive. They’re bottom ten in every offensive category, save rebounding (likely because they shoot 44% from the field, 24th, and gather offensive boards). Defense is the same story. The Knicks allow the 29th worst opponent efficiency rating and allowed 75 second half points to these Pelicans.
One would assume the Pelicans should handle this 5-14 Eastern Conference opponent handily, but it will take an early and resilient effort. The Knicks proved last week that no win comes easily in this association and the Pelicans will need to fast recognize this fact if they have aspirations of obtaining a top four seed in the Western Conference.
Are you concerned or downright cocky tonight? Comment below, and let’s geaux Pels!
What: New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks
Where: Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday, November 23, 2018, 6:30 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, MSG, 99.5 FM WRNO