As Preston Ellis tried to convince me the other day on our podcast, maybe something special is brewing in New Orleans after all because the Pelicans did it in dramatic fashion again, scoring yet another improbable victory in an overtime game as they knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks, 123-121.
I’m dead— Anita Demps (@carmendrake) February 25, 2018
Haha, we all are, but I will say this to the other 29 teams in the league: you don’t want to play the Pelicans in extra innings because somehow, someway you’re going to leave with a vastly disappointing loss! Sunday’s win marks the sixth straight victory for New Orleans in overtime periods and they’re 7-2 overall.
Oh, and this probably holds especially true for the Bucks. If you missed it, I had mentioned in the game preview that New Orleans absolutely owns Milwaukee of late. The Pelicans have walked away victorious in 20 of the last 24 meetings!
One more entertaining fact: New Orleans came away with the win for the fifth time this season after being down 18 or more points.
.@Pelicans are the comeback kids #DoItBig pic.twitter.com/h3pWtl1w03— FOXSports NewOrleans (@FOXSportsNOLA) February 25, 2018
“To me, the big thing is that if you look back, I think that’s the fifth time we’ve been down at least 18 and come back and won,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry to the media in postgame. “The good news is we’ve been able to do that, and the bad news is I don’t think you want to keep getting down 18.”
One definitely doesn’t want to tempt fate, but then again, what else is a team supposed to do when they start sluggishly out of the gates yet refuses to surrender?
Throughout the first half, the Pelicans struggled to find the necessary consistency on offense. The Bucks length presented problems all over the floor, yet New Orleans did themselves no favors as the execution was extremely poor — try 11 turnovers which turned into 15 points for Milwaukee.
“The first half, I thought the thing that bothered us the most was not so much what they were doing, but we were turning the ball over,” said Gentry. “You turn the ball over against this team when you’ve got Bledsoe, and you’ve got Giannis, and Middleton on the wing coming at you, you’ve got no chance to defend it.”
To make matters worse, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were stymied at the outset, as neither could manufacture points when the Bucks defense was set and ready to swarm. AD was forced to go to his jumper game early — which never got on track — and Holiday couldn’t get anything to go from anywhere, including right next to the rim.
According to Assistant Coach Jamelle McMillan at halftime, the Pelicans took too many hard shots in the first half and then the offense dictated the defense. Voila, that’s how a team finds themselves down 17-points after just 24 minutes.
But, shockingly, the skies cleared for the third quarter. New Orleans quickly reduced the deficit to single digits after a 13-3 run to start the second half and they kept the pedal to the floor — Tyreke Evans would have been proud. By the time the dust settled, the Pelicans had seized an 87-85 lead heading into the final frame. New Orleans outscored the Milwaukee by 19 points in the third quarter, something which has been done or exceeded just once previously this season.
The secret special sauce?
Nope, not Anthony Davis, who still finished with a loaded 27-point, 13-rebound, 2-steal and 2-block line and defended the hell out of the paint, including several fine blocks of Giannis Antetokounmpo drives to the rim.
Rather, most of the applause should go to the Pelicans starting backcourt.
Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo carried the New Orleans Pelicans to the victory! That's 5 straight, y'all!!!!! #LookOutWesternConference— The Bird WWWWWrites (@thebirdwrites) February 25, 2018
8 rebounds pic.twitter.com/o3ta68AnJ5
Rajon Rondo was directly responsible for the Pelicans starting quickly out of halftime as he assisted on dunks to Davis and Emeka Okafor, and then knocked down a midrange shot. His +22 plus/minus in the second half tells no lies as he was the inspiration for New Orleans finding their offensive rhythm in the second half so please forgive him for almost throwing the game away on that awful inbounds pass with the Pelicans up two and only 11.9 seconds remaining in overtime.
Rondo’s backcourt mate, Holiday, who as mentioned started the game without a good heartbeat, poured in 26 points in the second half. Weaving his way through the trees to get to the rim, knocking down midrange jumpers, he scored from everywhere on the court. He was really clutch in the fourth quarter and OT periods as he made 5 of 8 shot attempts.
“Well, you know, he’s played well the whole year,” said Gentry. “Maybe a little bit better than he normally would but he’s had some great games for us. When we’ve needed him the most, I thought he went and got us baskets and made plays, but to me the big thing was, the way he played on the defensive end was just as important as the baskets he had.”
Jrue Holiday could have very easily passed for a multiple All-Star today, or really any number of other days once we got past the first 10 or so games on the schedule. His two-way abilities continue to be among the best in the business. Besides his offensive exploits, he was a major reason why the Bucks’ Antetokounmpo finished with just six makes in 18 tries.
It’s time for the rest of the league to notice that this New Orleans Pelicans team has slammed through the adversity wall after losing DeMarcus Cousins and they are looking to make waves in the Western Conference. Once, they found their footing on the road in Brooklyn, they’ve proven as tenacious as we’ve always hoped they would be.
“I would say the one thing that I think is really positive is that we never really gave up,” said Gentry. “We just kept plugging away. We get our rhythm or get our defense set and be able to do some things and I think that’s what we did tonight.”
Coach Gentry was right. Tony Snell’s buzzer-beating three could have completely taken the wind out of New Orleans sails. Instead, the coaches and players talked about giving it a good try without the turnovers out of halftime. It worked. Splendidly.
The Cardiac Kids? The Comeback Kids? They’re all good descriptions, but one thing I do know is that this season is the most fun we’ve had in New Orleans since the last trip to the playoffs.
Thanks for not quitting after Boogie went down.