Forget that Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic missed the game, the Pelicans entered the contest against the team with the best overall record in the league without their typical pizzazz. New Orleans was playing for the sixth time in eight days and we must also include the fact that the team was in attendance for Tom Benson’s funeral yesterday. They were tired as hell and Anthony Davis admitted as much to David Wesley, the color commentator on Fox Sports New Orleans, earlier in the morning.
Davis compiled a 25-point, 8-rebound and 4-block effort, but like his teammates, he couldn’t will his feet enough to match the Rockets intensity. For instance, Houston was able to launch shots from preferred positions all night long. The team that ranks 27th in points in the paint managed to drop a cool 50 from that area on the Pelicans, and in addition, the James Harden-led crew launched 47 three-pointers. New Orleans failed to take anything away, not because the Rockets are superior in every way that their fans would like you to believe but simply because they were two steps quicker.
Following the game, Head Coach Alvin Gentry admitted he was contemplating on sitting the core players in the second half — New Orleans was trailing 64-37 at halftime, but the pride exhibited by the players refused to accept that route.
"You have to be able to have a run of points and we just never really got that tonight," @PelicansNBA head coach Alvin Gentry on what his team didn't do against the Rockets. pic.twitter.com/XuiWZV9KWH— FOXSports NewOrleans (@FOXSportsNOLA) March 25, 2018
In my opinion, that’s admirable, and sure enough, New Orleans edged out Houston by a 24-19 margin in the third quarter — the Pelicans worst-performing frame on average this season.
To draw too many other conclusions from this game is foolhardy, though, but there are a few highlights worth noting.
- Cheick Diallo finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and a couple of assists. This effort marks his fourth significant performance in the last five games, and he doesn’t appear to be ready to slow down anytime soon. He impressed the coaching staff during the Pelicans recent winning streak by showing well against bulkier opponents like Greg Monroe and Julius Randle. One has to think if he continues to contribute over the remaining eight games on the schedule, he’ll earn a spot in the Pelicans playoff rotation.
- Solomon Hill appeared in a season-high 16 minutes. Although he only knocked down one of four shots, the big takeaway is that he’s feeling well enough after each contest to keep raising his amount of run. There’s nearly three weeks left before the end of the regular season so there’s a good chance he’ll reach the 24-28 minute range before the playoffs begin.
- Larry Drew II’s 10-day contract wrapped up after tonight’s game so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s awarded another one. Drew finished with a decent line of nine points and three assists in 19 minutes, but in my opinion he didn’t do enough over his time in New Orleans to justify another 10-day deal.
Up next, the Pelicans will host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday inside The Blender. New Orleans has won twice in three matchups and will be looking to knock off the current third seed in the Western Conference to draw closer to being awarded home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.