If there is such a thing as nitpicking a seven-game win streak for the New Orleans Pelicans, it was the lack of dominant wins. Of the previous seven wins, three went into overtime and another two were decided by single digit points. Only in the 15-point win in Detroit and 18-point win against the Lakers did it truly feel like New Orleans had the game under control from start to finish.
The Pelicans had four days off to feel themselves and come back down to earth after the team’s latest win in San Antonio and turn their attention to Dallas. The Mavericks stole a game in New Orleans the last time the two met up and tonight the Pelicans needed to get their lick back, and for me at least, do so in a convincing fashion.
Consider that challenge met.
The Pelicans extended their winning streak to eight games Sunday evening with a comfortable 126-109 win in the American Airlines Center. Arguably the most pleasing win of this stretch, nearly every Pelican who took the floor contributed positively for New Orleans. Jrue Holiday was scoring from the get-go and finished the night with a team-best 30 points; Nikola Mirotic hit six three-pointers en route to a 24-point outing; and Anthony Davis had a quiet but dominant 23-point, 13-rebound effort.
But my biggest attaboy for tonight’s game goes to Cheick Diallo. He had his best game of the season with 13 points and 15 rebounds, including two offensive boards on consecutive possessions. But more impressively than the numbers is the way Diallo was able to play defense tonight without fouling. In 23 minutes, he only picked up a pair of fouls. He played smart, clean, straight-up defense and the maturation of Cheick Diallo seems to be unfurling before our eyes. Also he was 6-9 from the floor. Nice.
The best part of tonight’s win was how New Orleans responded to a late Dallas push that momentarily put the game in doubt. The Pelicans held a 91-73 lead with less than a minute to play in the third quarter and Dallas was able to trim that 18-point deficit to four early on in the fourth and final frame. But New Orleans, who is proving their worth with each passing game, did what good teams do: take a timeout, regroup and insert the starters back into the game, and slam the door on the opponent. New Orleans countered Dallas’ 14-0 run with ten unanswered points of their own, and by the time Dallas took a timeout, the Pelicans had the Mavericks in a Get Out-esque chokehold.
With 20 games to go, the Pelicans are ten games above .500 and as of this moment are the four seed in the West. They aren’t just firmly entrenched in the playoff picture, this team is poised to be hosting in round one. New Orleans has Monday night off and travel to Los Angeles to play the Clippers on TNT the following evening.
- The Pelicans now have two wins in Dallas this season. Coming into the year, they had three wins and 24 losses in Dallas the previous 15 seasons.
- Tonight was New Orleans’ 19th win on the road. That’s how many total wins Dallas has all season.
- The Pelicans came into the game as the better team and simply played like it. New Orleans shot the ball better, grabbed more rebounds and handed out more assists.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rajon Rondo’s near triple double. Rondo had 14 points and 10 assists but finished one rebound shy to accomplish the famed trifecta.
- The last rebound was grabbed by Cheick Diallo and he was totally not trying to wind up with it — but Rondo was M.I.A. on the play. Nevertheless, the New Orleans bench gave Diallo the business for swiping Rondo’s board.
- Dirk Nowitzki is 39 dang years old and still getting buckets. I don’t get it. I just hope I can still see at age 39. You know what I mean?