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Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle carry New Orleans Pelicans to 116-108 road victory over Detroit Pistons

Anthony Davis suffers a hip injury in the first quarter, but the rest of the squad willed their way to the much-needed win.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans are happily back in the win column after beating the Pistons by a final score of 116-108 in Detroit, but their fourth road win in fourteen tries wasn’t without some heart-palpitating drama.

Anthony Davis missed nearly half the game — thanks to his hip taking the brunt of a flying Blake Griffin right knee in the first quarter — and he didn’t look the same upon his return in the third quarter. Also, the Pelicans made things interesting down the stretch as the Pistons climbed within five points several times inside the final two minutes, but New Orleans managed to hold on and escape with their first clutch win since beating the New York Knicks back on November 16th.

In the first minute of tonight’s contest, Joel Meyers uttered on the Fox Sports New Orleans broadcast, “Can’t walk into games.” The Pelicans certainly didn’t, racing out a 15-9 lead on 6-9 shooting and committing zero turnovers.

The energy was evident, the effort contagious and Jrue Holiday began the game like a bat out of hell. He was in the middle of all the action, scoring 13 points, grabbing three rebounds and dishing three assists in the first twelve minutes of the game; however, it was his three-point shooting that captivated fans. He drilled a couple of three-pointers from the corner early and then canned another from deep before the quarter ended.

Following the game, he credited his deep perimeter shooting for propelling himself to a big game, “It’s huge because now I have everything.”

Holiday finished the contest with 37 points — one short of his career high — and added five rebounds, five assists, three steals and six threes (on ten attempts). He was so confident, so effective out on the court that he briefly reminded us of Stephen Curry on one end, but as soon as ball crossed half court, he was Jrue Holiday again when suffocating Reggie Jackson, contesting Piston lay-ins at the rim or battling Detroit bigs in the post on defensive switches.

“Everything came extremely easy for him,” said Julius Randle. “He wasn’t forcing anything. {He} did a great job between scoring, sharing the ball, and obviously, what he does on the defensive end. It’s what we’ve come to expect from him every night.”

Speaking of Randle, Julius also got off to a solid start and really picked up the slack once AD left for the locker room. It’s not easy getting to your spots in the paint against Griffin and Andre Drummond, but Julius didn’t settle nor was he ever out of control. He finished with 28 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks and provided the support inside to Jrue’s stellar outside floor game.

Despite this duo rolling early and the Pistons making just three of 14 shots from deep and three of nine from the free throw line, the Pelicans clung to a six-point lead at 56-50 at halftime. Out of intermission though, New Orleans started to cook, opening up a 16-point lead and found themselves in the bonus with 5:03 left in the third quarter.

Unfortunately, the Pelicans bench, who was ice cold for much of the night, couldn’t take advantage once most of the starters took a breather, and following a 10-0 run by Detroit, the gap closed to just four inside a minute left before the final frame. However, before the damage got any worse, Tim Frazier decided to play hero and he nailed the part. The Pelicans starting point guard scored five points in the final 34 seconds, including another quarter-ending three-pointer.

“We kind of let the lead slip away on a couple of three-pointers,” said Alvin Gentry to post-game media, “but I thought our guys regrouped and we did a good job of continuing to attack. I think sometimes we get a little too passive.”

Attack they did. From Jrue to Julius to Tim Frazier, who finished with 14 points (on just five shots!), eight assists, three rebounds and a couple of threes and steals, New Orleans didn’t fall into any extended bad habits and settle too much on multiple consecutive possessions.

Nikola Mirotic put the game on ice with 1:15 remaining when he blocked an Andre Drummond attempt at the rim on one end — when the Pistons had closed the gap to five points — and then proceeded to knock down a midrange jumper over Luke Kennard on the other end. Although Niko’s efficiency was off for a second straight game off the bench (as was E’Twaun Moore’s), his effort was solid. I thought he did as good of a job one can do with his god-given talents on Blake Griffin, who is playing some of the best basketball of his career and finished with 35 points, once Davis had to leave the game.

Hats off to Solomon Hill as well for picking up the rebounding slack (eight boards) and for knocking down another three-pointer when left open, Darius Miller for finding teammates (four assists) when his shot was off, and Anthony Davis for gutting this one out. As mentioned, AD clearly wasn’t himself, leaving midrange jumpers short and not having his typical lift or lateral movement, but he gave the team important minutes when battling the Pistons bigs for rebounds in the paint. Although Detroit grabbed 17 offensive rebounds on the night, they only totaled 21 points on putbacks. The Pelicans, AD included, gave good effort in contesting most of those second and third opportunities.

The Pelicans are also going to need to clean up some other things before tomorrow’s matchup against the Celtics in Boston, namely taking care of the basketball. After committing just six turnovers in the first 24 minutes, the Pelicans suffered 12 turnovers after halftime which directly fueled the Pistons comeback.

Sean Kelley, who is New Orleans play-by-play on the radio, asked Alvin Gentry after the game when he finally felt relief. The head coach responded, “At the final buzzer.”

Likewise, coach, but it was a good win nonetheless considering the adversity — Anthony Davis wasn’t Anthony Davis but for six minutes and the Pelicans immense struggles on the road this season. Let’s hope for another happy ending tomorrow against the Celtics!