It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Pelicans must have taken that idiom to heart Saturday night in the Smoothie King Center, overcoming a 13-point first quarter deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers by 22, their biggest margin of victory on the season.
The Pelicans outscored the Pacers by 35 points from the second quarter on and New Orleans got a much needed home win, picking up its fourth victory in five games.
The first quarter was rough to put it gently for New Orleans. The Pelicans nearly had as many turnovers, four, as they did made baskets, five. Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday would end up leading the Pelicans in scoring when the night was over, but you wouldn’t have expected that after viewing the first quarter. Ingram and Holiday combined for one basket in eight attempts.
But Ingram and Holiday came alive in the second quarter and the Pelican defense, which has been trending up over the last 10 days, put the clamps on Indiana. New Orleans outscored Indiana 29-13 and held the Pacers to 4-24 shooting, who missed all nine of their three-point attempts.
While Ingram and Holiday slowly but surely built up their point totals, Derrick Favors was busy grabbing virtually every missed shot. By the end of the first half, Favors had 10 rebounds and ended the night with 16 boards. Those 16 rebounds were the most Favors has grabbed since he had 20 in the Pelicans win over the Clippers way back on November 14.
When the third quarter tipped off, New Orleans exploded for 38 points and still held Indiana in check to the tune of 22 points. The Pelicans came out of halftime with a three-point lead, and it left it with an 18-point lead. Jrue Holiday scored 12 of his 20 points in the third including a pair of threes.
The vibes are real good— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 29, 2019
Jrue and BI each have 20 with a quarter to play pic.twitter.com/ry506Y7sRl
With the game in hand going into the fourth, both Holiday and Favors sat for the entirety of the final quarter. Even without Holiday and Favors, the Pelicans still won the fourth quarter thanks in part to knocking down seven threes. Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball each knocked down a pair of bombs. Eight of Hart’s 11 points came in the fourth quarter.
Heading into the game, Indiana was the team that had six players averaging double digit points. But tonight it was New Orleans that got significant scoring from a multitude of players.
Seven Pelicans scored at least 10 or more points. Brandon Ingram led all Pelicans with 24 points and Jrue had 20 in only three quarters of action. Of the other three starters, JJ Redick had 15 points, Ball had 13 and Favors had 10. Hart and E’Twaun Moore each scored 11 points off the bench.
Oh, by the way, a fun thing happened.
Yes sir, all three Holiday brothers — Jrue, Aaron and Justin — shared the court at the same time. That’s a first in NBA history, one I’m sure their family will never forget.
Jrue Holiday on playing against brothers Justin and Aaron: “Apparently we can play basketball. We’re kinda good at it, so... All I really want them to do is play well. That’s it. Both of them. But I’m glad I got the win.”— Trevor Ritchie (@ritchietmr) December 29, 2019
The Pelicans are playing arguably its best ball of the season. New Orleans has won four of five and the last two have been against teams that will likely be playing in the postseason come spring: Denver and Indiana. The Pelican defense has come to life and has been the best in the NBA for six straight games now.
Alvin Gentry on what changed: “We had glimpses of what we could be, but we would have these six and seven-minute stretches where we just didn’t even score or defend. We’ve kinda eliminated those. [...] I think anytime you can do that, your defense is gonna keep you in the game.”— Trevor Ritchie (@ritchietmr) December 29, 2019
Up next, New Orleans tackles the Houston Rockets tomorrow evening at the Smoothie King Center.