The New Orleans Pelicans began a rough three games in three nights stretch Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks. Missing Jrue Holiday (illness) and later losing Anthony Davis (lower left leg injury) for a few minutes wasn’t the recipe they had in mind for a good start, but they got the job done anyway, pulling out the victory on a dominant 4th quarter performance, 115-105.
What we liked: The Perseverance
It’s something about the Pelicans and rough circumstances this season. Whether it’s injury, opponent or self-inflicted trauma, they have continued to fight. Already coming into the game down their second best player, the star, Davis, was at one point a good bet to join him on the sidelines.
Anthony Davis (lower left leg injury) is questionable to return to Tuesday's game vs. Mavericks: https://t.co/jn78WjUUj5— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) March 21, 2018
However, Davis returned at the start of the second half and put the finishing touches on another fantastic performance, totaling 37 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a couple of three-pointers. AD persevering through injury loomed large as the Pelicans absolutely needed his offense, and on the night, he missed just six of his 21 shot attempts!
Of course, the efforts of others forced into enhanced roles ultimately helped New Orleans secure the victory.
What we didn’t like: The finish
No disrespect to the Mavericks, but the Pelicans made Tuesday’s contest closer than it probably should have been. New Orleans has been burned by their three-point defense at times this season, yet the Mavs were not able to make them pay enough. Dallas connected on their fair share to keep the game close, but shot a meager 29 percent overall from deep.
The issue this brings for the Pelicans is, the good teams won’t shoot that percentage most nights. For a team facing many playoff spirited games down the stretch, they’ll need to create tougher looks for opponents.
When it was over: Rondo’s three with 30 seconds left
The Pelicans hadn’t been able to put Dallas away as mentioned earlier until Rajon Rondo splashed home a three put the final nail in the coffin. Of course he made the shot right in front of Dallas’ bench.
1. Diallo and Clark provide huge sparks
Cheick Diallo is continuing to show why he needs to be on the floor. We always knew the motor was there, but now the production is starting to consistently match it. Diallo put together his second straight terrific performance, totaling 10 points and 14 rebounds.
And did we mention how fun it is watching him?
With Jrue Holiday out, NOLA needed perimeter scoring from other sources. Ian Clark provided that punch. In 31 huge minutes, Clark continued to show that he’s more than just a shooter, pouring in 19 points. He attacked the Mavs repeatedly and didn’t settle for jump shots.
Following the game, Head Coach Alvin Gentry had nothing but praise for his bench that finished with 43 points and 26 rebounds.
“With Jrue (Holiday) not here,” said Gentry, “we had to have guys step up. You know I think Ian (Clark) is playing really good basketball. I thought (Rajon) Rondo really closed the game great, and then Cheick (Diallo) continues to play great for us off the bench. So those are the kind of things you got to have at this stage to try and stay in the race.”
2. The Solomon Hill plan
Solomon Hill brings two welcomed things to the Pelicans: Defense and size. While currently on a minute restriction, Hill’s tools were on display early against Dallas. Hill provided masterful defense and length on Mavs forward Harrison Barnes in the first half. Hill’s defense allowed E’Twuan Moore to occupy his natural role at the shooting guard, and for at least this game, sparked the Pelicans to make a run before halftime.
It’s early and won’t last long tonight but you should enjoy Solomon Hill guarding a small forward and not E’Twuan Moore— Chris Conner (@Impatientbull) March 21, 2018
Once Hill’s minutes restriction reached its limit, his presence was noticeably missed as Barnes’ size was too much for the Pelicans and E’Twaun Moore. It will be quite the pleasure to see the rotation and flexibility once Hill is able to contribute more often.
3. Rondo’s Double-Double
For all the criticism Rondo has received this season, every once in a while he’ll surprise and flex his muscles. Tuesday was another example as Rondo finished with 19 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds. In addition to his numbers, Rondo made clutch shots, passes, and rebounds down the stretch as the Pelicans were looking to put Dallas away.
Up Next: Indiana Pacers 3/21
The Pels don’t have much time to celebrate as they’re right back to the grind tomorrow night. Wednesday brings a much improved Indiana Pacers team looking for revenge after the Pelicans were victorious earlier in the season. With Victor Oladipo having a career year, NOLA will hope to have Jrue Holiday back in uniform.
Stay Tuned and geaux Pels!