Who knows how they’ll notch the victory tomorrow, but the New Orleans Pelicans just keep winning. The Pelicans, who were the hottest three-point shooting team in December, now sport a top ten defense this month.
The Pelicans are led by breakout MVP-candidate Anthony Davis, and yet, Sunday’s victory was largely spearheaded by the “washed up” Rajon Rondo, who posted a +22 in the second half, and the wildly overpaid Jrue Holiday. The same Holiday who single-handedly managed the Pelicans’ offense for large spurts on his way to a 36-9-6 line, and oh did we forget to mention, played lockdown defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Pelicans are riding some kind of improbable wave of effort and renewed vigor in their largest victory streak of the Alvin Gentry era. They have won five continuous games, including five straight overtime games.
I Saw the Sun
The Phoenix Suns, meanwhile, are in a free fall, losers of eight straight games. Celebrating the worst record in the Association, the 18-43 Suns have failed to win a game in a month, last claiming victory on January 28th against the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s gotten so bad, even their own fans refuse to watch the continual dredgery. According to John Lombardo and John Ourand of Sportsbuisnessdaily.com, the Phoenix suffered the second-worst drop (-46%) in local ratings, trailing only the Atlanta Hawks (-50%).
Despite this, don’t look overlook this scrappy young gunnin’ Suns, with a fresh faced backcourt of Devin Booker and newly acquired Elfrid Payton. Booker is electric offensively, averaging almost 25 points per game in addition to five assists and five rebounds and 38% shooting from three-point range. Meanwhile in just five games, the former New Orleans local is averaging 17, nine and seven, and when aggressive, can be lethal in the paint.
Fresh off his big pay day, TJ Warren is also quietly enjoying a productive season, adding 19.4 points per game to five rebounds and quality defense.
Last time on Suns!
The Suns enjoyed their best performance of 2018 in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. Phoenix led throughout and were up by 15 with less than seven and a half remaining. Unfortunately for them and Pelicans Nation, they lost 106-104.
The problem was they couldn’t slow down Damian Lilliard, who scored 19 points in the final frame, 40 overall and this last second shot.
The @Suns had a 15-point lead in the second half but fall to the #Blazers on Damian Lillard's last-second shot. It's their 9th straight loss. pic.twitter.com/MyXHpkTYXE— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) February 25, 2018
The Suns had a chance to win at the end, but Troy Daniels failed to inbound the ball, cracking the rarely called five-second rule.
Pushing the Pace
Head Coach Jay Triano pushes the pace with his young unit, ranking fourth overall in the NBA, and yet the Suns still rank 28th in offensive rating, and 30th defensively. The Suns foul frequently (22.3 pf/g), and turn the ball over at the 27th worst rate in the NBA. They also sport the worst effective field goal percentage in the NBA at 49.3%.
Things they do well? Rebound and score in transition. But these statistics are misleading, as with the dynamic pace these young Suns run, extra possessions and poor field goal shooting contribute to rebounds for everyone!
Keys for the Pelicans
- Bring enough energy. The boys are likely to be exhausted following two overtime contests in three nights, and have to face off against a Suns team who has been resting comfortably on Canal Street since Sunday morning.
- Stick Jrue Holiday on Devin Booker. Jrue has reached otherworldly defensive levels and has to be in consideration for All-NBA defense this season. Limiting Phoenix’s primary scorer will all but guarantee a positive outcome.
- Get the role players involved. Jrue and Anthony have carried a great load as of late. The two stars deserve a respite, and this is the perfect opportunity for show out performances by the struggling Darius Miller, E’Twaun Moore and Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic has been icy cold from the field as of late — although he’s been fantastic in other facets, and Moore and Miller have all but disappeared. Ian Clark was a pleasant surprise with his 19 first-half points against the Heat but has been wildly inconsistent all season long.
Additional note: Don’t expect to see former-Hornet Tyson Chandler in this one, who has missed five of the last six games on the schedule with a neck injury.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: February 26, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM