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New Orleans Pelicans overcome 15-point deficit in second half to rally past San Antonio Spurs, 121-116

That’s seven wins in a row!!!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Alvin Gentry finally got a chance to celebrate in San Antonio as a member of the New Orleans organization, and boy did he get to do it in style after the Pelicans 121-116 victory over the Spurs.

Not only did the head coach snap a personal five-game losing streak inside the AT&T Center, this was the Spurs first loss at home when leading in the fourth quarter on the season. More impressively, the Pelicans win snapped a rather dubious 10-year-old record.

Thanks to a dominant finish, the Pelicans won their seventh consecutive game and now find themselves just half a game out of fourth in the Western Conference. Also, Wednesday’s win could have important playoff implications as New Orleans took a step closer to owning the tiebreaker over San Antonio. They’ve beaten the Spurs twice this season and have two meetings remaining.

Before the final buzzer sounded, though, it looked like the Pelicans win streak was history. Despite the fact LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained right ankle) was ruled out for the rest of the game at halftime. Despite the fact that Gregg Popovich was ejected within the first minute of the third quarter.

New Orleans trailed 84-69 with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter as the Spurs had been quicker to the ball, smarter and the more physical team throughout. Then, with their backs against the wall, the Pelicans made an improbable run, beginning with an 18-11 spurt to finish the third frame. The good times continued in the fourth as the Pelicans beat the Spurs 34-21, but Gentry highlighted the importance of the close to the third.

“I just thought that we just kept battling,” said Alvin Gentry in postgame media. “We weren’t playing the greatest and I thought we were kind of half a step slow in everything we were doing. They were really attacking us; we were having trouble controlling dribble penetration. But we just kept plugging away and plugging away. I thought it was big toward the end of the third where we got it back to a working situation. And then I just thought we made plays down the stretch. Jrue made a bunch of plays. Obviously, AD’s offensive rebound on the foul shot was really huge. I kept telling the guys at every timeout, ‘We just got to keep battling. You know, something good’s got to happen if we just keep battling the way we are.’”

Something good did happen, and the hero was none other than Anthony Davis. AD, who posted a somewhat quiet 25-point, 16-rebound, 2-steal effort — thanks to the Spurs daring everyone else to beat them, came up with the biggest play of the night: an offensive rebound with 20.9 seconds. With the Pelicans leading by one, he was promptly fouled and then proceeded to knock down both of his free throw attempts. No one was happier at that moment than Jrue Holiday, who had missed two attempts from the charity stripe less than two seconds earlier.

“I think the first free throw I shot long so the second one I tried to put a little more touch on it, put it on the front rim and let it bounce in,” said Holiday in the locker room following the game. “Anthony being Anthony saved us, or saved me.”

The Spurs had a couple of looks from three-point range to tie it but missed, giving the Pelicans a much needed non-overtime win.

When asked what was responsible for the Pelicans second-half turnaround, Holiday basically pointed to two ass-chewings. The first one was from Rajon Rondo as the team headed to the locker rooms at halftime, and the second was by Alvin Gentry once inside the locker room. Message received and understood!

In addition to the inspirational pep talk, a lot of credit needs to be given to the Pelicans smaller lineups, particularly the one featuring Holiday-Clark-Moore-Miller-Davis. In just under seven minutes, they combined for 22 points and posted a 166.7 offensive rating and 83.8 defensive rating. They flat out rocked, but Rondo also performed admirably. Over the final 17 minutes of the game, here’s a list of the key contributions — in case someone still thinks this team consists of Davis and no one else:

  • E’Twaun Moore scored nine points of 4-7 from the field including a huge three-pointer that put the Pelicans up 117-116 with 1:12 remaining.
  • Anthony Davis scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and shot a perfect 6-6 from the line. #MVP
  • Jrue Holiday went 4-5 from the floor for nine points, and had the most important individual stretch, scoring two layups and assisting on another to AD for six straight points. The Pelicans went from five down with 3:34 remaining to one up with 1:53 left.
  • Ian Clark scored eight points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists.
  • Darius Miller also tallied eight points and knocked down two big three-pointers.
  • Rajon Rondo had a cool line of six points, six assists, three rebounds and zero turnovers.

“It was hard for us to have Niko {Nikola Mirotic} and AD out there,” said Gentry. “They played a much smaller lineup and those guys were attacking the defenders so much that we needed more speed out there — A smaller perimeter guy to be able to play against some of the things they were doing out there.”

Considering the Pelicans finished the game on a 52-32 run, I’d say the coaching staff nailed it...twice. Although Gentry didn't reveal specifically what he said to the team at halftime, he did give Jen Hale the G-rated version.

“I just told them that I just didn’t think we were playing the type of basketball that we’ve been playing,” said Gentry. “My whole deal was like, let’s just play the way we play and do what we do. And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

It worked out.

In the locker room postgame, Holiday talked about the Pelicans mental focus, particularly their ability to lock in despite having bad halves. Yes, that’s been a theme. In case you’ve missed the previous two games, the Pelicans trailed the Suns by seven at halftime, and the Bucks, 17. Each time, including tonight, New Orleans walked away with the win.

“We’re in a groove... Making it seven in a row has been awesome. It’s been fun.” — Jrue Holiday.

Believe it or not, there’s only eight teams with a better winning percentage in the league as of this writing. You’re right, Jrue, this is fun!