At long last, New Orleans’ hellish week is finally, mercifully, over.
The Pelicans closed out their three-games-in-as-many-nights stretch with their fourth consecutive victory, holding off the Los Angeles Lakers 128-125 on Thursday night in the Smoothie King Center. Trailing by 11 points entering the 4th quarter, the Pelicans flipped a switch and dominated the Lakers for the rest of the game, going on a 31-17 run over the final twelve minutes of play.
Anthony Davis led the charge, posting a line of 33 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks, but he got plenty of assistance. Rajon Rondo was simply spectacular, going off for 24 points, 10 assists and three steals — thank you for walking into the arena, Isaiah Thomas, and Jrue Holiday looked like his old self, conquering a recent bout with the flu with 26 points and six assists. Ian Clark led all reserves with 13 points in 23 minutes.
For long stretches of the game, New Orleans seemed doomed to come up short. Los Angeles seemingly couldn’t miss from three-point range as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma combined to knock down 12 of 17 shots from behind the arc. The Lakers accuracy was directly responsible for maintaining various small leads from the end of the first quarter and into the fourth. When that lead expanded to 11, it felt like New Orleans had finally ran out of gas.
Yet, just when you figured all the minutes of playing for a fifth time in six days had caught up with New Orleans, Davis and Rondo wouldn’t be denied. They combined for 22 points in the final frame, and once the Pelicans reclaimed the lead late in the fourth, ironically enough, the game was sealed on the defensive end. And by the “defensive end,” I mean Lonzo Ball kind of sort of kept shooting and missing threes late. Like OutKast once asked “What’s cooler than being cool? ICE COLD,” — that was Ball shooting tonight. Ball was 2-15 from the floor and only knocked down one three-pointer in 12 attempts.
“You know that’s the worst team to play on the third game or you know the fifth game in six days,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “You know the pace that they play with is so unbelievable, and they’re relentless in their pace. So I did say to the guys that the first team that decides to guard a little bit would probably be the team that would have won. I thought in the fourth quarter we really locked in, did a good job, came up with stops and that’s how we won the game.”
Honestly, it’s astounding The Blender’s scoreboard was ablaze with points on both ends considering the lack of recent rest for New Orleans, yet both teams put on an offensive bonanza. The Pelicans shot 54 percent from the floor while the Lakers finished at 49.4 percent, hitting 17 threes for good measure. The three ball was largely responsible for the Lakers holding their lead as long as they did Thursday night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, in particular, had a hot night with eight threes and 28 points overall.
The Pelicans get a much needed night off Friday — although they will attend Tom Benson’s funeral to pay their respects — before traveling west to Houston to play the Rockets on Saturday night. New Orleans is the most tired team in the league right now, but they’re also one of the hottest.