Anthony Davis notched a new season high with 48 points and grabbed 17 boards to help his team avoid more late-game misery. It was the ninth time Davis has logged at least 45 points and 15 rebounds in his career. Jrue Holiday went for 18 points, eight assists and seven boards while Julius Randle added 22 points and 12 rebounds.
New Orleans didn’t get off to the start it had wanted. Dallas seized a 66-55 lead at halftime after hitting 10 of its 19 three-point attempts in the first half. The Pelicans went 1-for-10 from deep in the same span, and just didn’t display the urgency needed to win games and gain ground in the standings. Bluntly, the Mavericks are one the worst road teams in the NBA at 2-15 and losing to them two times in three nights for the team’s six-straight loss would have been unacceptable. In pursuit of a pick-me-up, head coach Alvin Gentry ripped into his team during intermission.
“It wasn’t a G-rated speech,” Gentry said. “I can tell you that. I was just disappointed with the way we approached the game. We have to start getting back to who we were and that’s playing hard, moving the basketball, finding people. I was just disappointed. The way we started the game was not going to be a game that we would win. Really, I was just disappointed and I let them know that.”
In response to Gentry’s fiery approach, the third quarter featured that energy. Solomon Hill posterized Maxi Kleber in transition, and Dennis Smith Jr. returned the favor to Randle soon after.
New Orleans won the third frame by a 31-22 margin to make it a two-point game and bring what was perhaps the best home crowd of the year to life. It was apparent this team fed off the halftime message throughout the second half, including in previously dreaded clutch minutes.
“You just go out there and just try to sacrifice every night,” Hill said. “Every second and don’t take it for granted. We don’t want to be that team in March or April begging for other teams to lose. We want to do that now. We’ve got to make the sacrifice and do it now – go out and just try to be the hardest playing team. Only one team can be the hardest playing team and it might as well be us.”
Holiday did enter the fourth quarter with five fouls, presenting even more of a challenge in the clutch, but it was grit and a will to win established down the stretch that made the difference. The Pelicans combatted their dry shooting night behind the arc with 70 points in the paint, 20 offensive rebounds and 30 second chance points. E’Twaun Moore diving on top of a loose ball that led to an and-one from Davis gave the Pelicans the final edge.
“We take a lot of pride in our hustle points,“ Davis said. “Alvin talked about getting on the floor, 50/50 balls and stuff like that. E’Twaun hustled to save the basketball enough for us to get a look out of it. It was huge. Plays like that win you games, and it helped us tonight.”
Luka Doncic, who finished with 34 points on 10-of-16 shooting, did not get a touch on the final Mavericks possession. The play was designed so Doncic could open up the floor while defended by Jrue Holiday, but guard Dennis Smith Jr. simply failed to get his last attempt off in time.
The Pelicans improve to 16-20 overall with Friday’s win, but a quick turnaround awaits. Reigning MVP James Harden and the Houston Rockets will be in town Saturday for a matchup scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m in the Smoothie King Center.