For the second time in five days, the New Orleans Pelicans played the Washington Wizards, yet this time the outcome couldn’t have been any more different. The first meeting resulted in a disappointing 124-114 loss, but on Wednesday night, New Orleans soundly defeated the Washington Wizards by a score of 125-104 and the smallest guy on the court was responsible for the incredible turnaround.
Prior to the start of the game, Alvin Gentry announced Tim Frazier would join the starting lineup in an effort to alleviate some pressure off Jrue Holiday’s shoulders and help kickstart the team out of the locker room in the first quarter.
The plan worked to perfection.
In the previous four games — all losses — New Orleans’ offense struggled to maintain offensive rhythm and ball movement. Defensively, the team had been even more of a disaster. And the start of games, wow, getting down quickly by double digits had literally become a thing.
Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has emphasized the need to push the pace more during the recent four game skid, yet the team had trouble producing results. The loss against the Boston Celtics on Monday night might have broken the camel’s back because Gentry turned to his seldom-used point guard for help and the decision turned out to be a stroke of genius. Frazier pushed the pace from the tip en route to a double-double (12 points, six rebounds, 12 assists) and helped get everyone involved against his former team.
“I thought Tim did a great job of pushing the basketball,” said Gentry in the postgame media session. “It also allowed Jrue (Holiday) to play off the basketball. The first couple of minutes of the game you can see – he had a back-cut layup and then he had a cut from the weak side for a layup, so it just allowed him an opportunity to do what he does best and that’s to be off the ball andcutting and finding open spots. So I thought that was the big thing I thought having Tim in the lineup did.”
The Pelicans got off to a fast start thanks to All-Defensive guard Jrue Holiday. He was brilliant early in the first quarter, routinely attacking the Wizards and scoring 11 points in the first frame on 6-8 shooting including two three-point baskets. Holiday was even more aggressive defensively as he teamed with Frazier to stymy Washington’s All-Star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal — They held them to a combined 5 points on 2-11 shooting including 0-6 from the three point line in the first quarter.
Honestly, we haven’t seen New Orleans dominate another outstanding backcourt so completely since the Trail Blazers in the 2018 playoffs. With all of the recent trade speculation surrounding the Wizards, many fans had been clamoring for the team to trade for either Beal or Wall. At least for this game, New Orleans proved they had the best backcourt tandem.
The second quarter was dominated by Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle. Mirotic scored 7 of his 15 points in the second quarter and continued to shoot absolute bombs from 25-26 feet away from the basket. Mirotic is just so much fun to watch play basketball at times. Not to be outdone though, Randle notched 9 points and 6 rebounds — and his customary second quarter charge. At times, taking a charge is the only way you can defend Julius Randle when he’s attacking the basket with such ferocity. Still, Randle has to understand opponents are waiting to use his aggressiveness against him so let’s hope he soon adjusts his game accordingly.
Out of half time, the Pelicans apparently forgot their defense in the locker room. New Orleans gave up 34 points in the third quarter, losing the frame 34-31. Wall and Beal began to heat up and find seams in New Orleans perimeter defense as the pair combined for 21 points in the third. They also did a nice job of finding open three-point looks for Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. (By the way, who else wouldn’t mind seeing Oubre playing a little more basketball in New Orleans soon? Get it done Dell!)
Offensively, Anthony Davis dominated the third quarter scoring 16 of his 28 points to keep the Pelicans afloat. Holiday, Mirotic, and E’Twaun Moore — the only other Pelicans to score in the quarter — combined for 15 points. It was a vintage Davis offensive performance. The All-World big was hitting elbow jumpers, cleaning the boards and even sunk a couple of three pointers to help maintain New Orleans lead. The only real negative from an offensive perspective were seven third quarter turnovers for the Pelicans. New Orleans...cough, cough, Julius Randle...will have to find a way to eliminate high turnover quarters like this if they hope to get back to winning on a consistent basis.
Early in the fourth quarter, Washington took advantage of some more sloppy play by New Orleans and it looked like the game might get too interesting; however, the Pels clamped down defensively and regained their comfortable margin.
New Orleans finished the game with six players in double figures including Jrue Holiday’s stat stuffing line of 27 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three triples, while Randle nearly notched another triple double — the unfortunate kind — with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and seven turnovers.
Despite the high amount of turnovers, New Orleans was able to snap their four-game losing streak rather easily thanks to their supremacy in the paint (64-38 advantage on the glass and a 62-38 edge in points in the paint) and a lethal transition game, leading to 26-8 fastbreak advantage.
Tim Frazier may not be able to hold the fort down the whole time Elfrid Payton is out, but tonight, he passed the test with flying colors. Frazier made a concerted effort to push the pace as often as possible and it resulted in a number of easy looks for a number of his teammates but none probably more important than for Jrue Holiday, who looked comfortable from start to finish for the first time in a long while.
The Pelicans get a day’s rest before traveling to Miami to take on the Heat on Friday night. Check back with us for my game preview and be sure to check out The Bird Calls Podcast with Preston Ellis, Kevin Barrios, and Oleh Kosel for the latest in Pelicans news.