Apparently, Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, E’Twaun Moore and Elfrid Payton have been holding the Pelicans back this season because New Orleans pulled off that astounding, no-one-saw-this-coming 121-116 upset of the Houston Rockets without all of the aforementioned names!
Yes, the Pelicans nearly coughed up a 12-point lead with two minutes to go, but they did hold on to win thanks to making key free throws and forcing Rocket misses on the other end. Following a 35-point first quarter by Houston, New Orleans held the Rockets to 36.5% shooting from the floor and 27.5% from deep for the rest of the game.
The biggest theme on the night was the all-out hustle and effort and most of it seemingly stemming from Jrue Holiday. Oh, our deserving All-Star was his usual self, but the players who were active fed off Holiday’s bounciness all over the court and it translated into holding James Harden to 11 of 32 shooting and the Rockets to a mere 50 points in the second half.
As is customarily the case, Jrue Holiday did more than just guard the reigning MVP of the league. He was also a dynamo offensively, scoring six straight points late in the fourth quarter and posting a line of 19 points, eight assists, six rebounds and, count them, six blocks!
For those of you who have been a doubting Thomas, maybe it’s not that farfetched of an idea to hope the front office looks to build around Jrue once Davis departs for good?
Although Holiday deserves the game ball ahead of everyone else, strong cases could be made for several other players for their impressive performances.
Jahlil Okafor continues to don Superman’s cape: 27 points (11-15 FGs, 5-5 FTs), 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. The Rockets had no answers for his size, strength or footwork. Jah is now daily putting on the type of clinic that we had always dreamed to see out of AD when it comes to using one’s athleticism and wit to beat all sized defenders.
I said it once, I’ll say it again: Okafor is going to soon be unanimously regarded as one of the best bargains in the land of basketball contracts. Note: A big, BIG win for the much beleaguered New Orleans front office.
The out-of-left-field award on the night goes to Kenrich Williams. Although his line wasn’t the flashiest, he did grab 16 (!) rebounds.
Top NBA rookies for single game highs in rebounds this year:— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) January 30, 2019
1. DeAndre Ayton: 18
2. Marvin Bagley: 17
3. Kenrich Williams: 16
Williams’ activity and movement were such a sight for sore eyes considering how long fans have waited to see a legit small forward do the dirty work and try to involve himself in every play. If you’re not a 20+ point scorer, please go make plays elsewhere and that’s precisely what Kenrich did.
In his first few minutes of action, Kenrich looked like the guy we’ve seen for much of the season: a kid lacking confidence. But after Gerald Green blocked a shot, Williams went on a mini-tear. He attacked the paint twice, once on a tough turnaround jumper and then off the dribble for a short pull-up. He proceeded to hit a long jumpshot. Then he spent the rest of the game cleaning up all the boards off the glass when Jah wasn’t yelling, “mine.”
Kenrich was cutting, helping on defense, making some nice passes, banging against Nene or Faried when necessary in the paint and tying up the best driver of the basketball in Harden for a jump ball that resulted in a key change of possession for the Pelicans.
Coming in a close second where-the-hell-has-this-been-all-season was Ian Clark. In 18 minutes, Clark poured in 15 points. He had the best +/- (+13) on the night. Outside of one three-pointer that never had a prayer of getting past a Rockets block attempt, Clark was unusually confident, too.
Until his meltdown (two OMG turnovers) in the final minute of the game, Tim Frazier was, dare I say, good? He scored 10 points on four shots and dished out 10 assists. A double-double in 20 minutes off the bench? Yes, please.
The usually quiet and too reserved Darius Miller was...nowhere to be found! He showed nice exuberance on a four-point play to open up the Pelicans scoring in the fourth quarter with New Orleans nursing a 94-93 lead. He had another rare drive from the three-point line all the way to the rim. And he showed a fire in his eyes and a clenched fist after Eric Gordon was whistled for traveling in the final minutes of the game.
Reserve players sometimes will surprise when there is no hierarchy on the floor and I feel that’s why Darius (14 points, four assists, three steals) excelled on this occasion. There was no one to defer to and a freer-looking Miller did outwardly display more emotion than we typically see out of him.
Perhaps the funniest thing on the night — no, no, I’m not going to slam Cheick Diallo for missing a WIDE OPEN lay-in at the rim off a cut or for inbounding the ball to a teammate looking up the floor — was Caron Butler breaking down the Davis trade saga. He told the TNT listening audience that the AD hype is not going to be a Paul George or a Kawhi Leonard situation. If you’re not the Lakers or Celtics, it’s going to be a rental. He then rattled off winning teams in
recent history which included the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.
Like I said, funny.
Anyways, what a feel good win, huh? Not only was it a victory over a division-rival, but it was a really fun watch — guys playing for each while hustling all over the court. None of us expected this outcome and the start was anything but appealing, but boy did New Orleans reverse their fortunes after the first quarter.
We’ll find out tomorrow whether this was a one-game display of “Are you sure you want to leave, Anthony?” when the Pelicans host the Denver Nuggets, but at least we’ll have that time against Houston right after learning the superstar wants out.
Seriously, are you sure, AD?
AD may have requested a trade, but he's still helping out the Pels coaching staff ✊ pic.twitter.com/Mtg4MxCdDE— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 30, 2019
This sequence didn’t have the look of a guy who is ready to leave quite yet...