The Pelicans welcomed the Pacers into the Smoothie King Center on Monday night, and in a game where Indiana was obviously favored to win, they did so by the skin of their teeth. New Orleans came up on the short end of the stick, falling by a score of 109-107, but the try hard champs (this what i’m calling the Pels now) literally fought until the last second before ultimately succumbing to a deeper Pacers squad.
Indiana entered the game without their star guard Victor Oladipo, who is out for the season after suffering a ruptured quad during a January 23rd matchup against the Miami Heat. These Pacers won’t get any sympathy from the Pelicans though, as New Orleans had only eight players active for tonight’s game. The Pelicans are currently missing most of their core due to injury and/or trade speculation yet still nearly pulled off the surprise upset.
At this point in the season and with the roster available, the only advantage the Pelicans can boast over their opponents is effort. Luckily for NOLA fans what’s left at Alvin Gentry’s disposal seems to fully understand this concept.
New Orleans was the aggressor early, using hustle and good shooting to race out to an 11-0 lead and forcing Indiana to call a timeout just three minutes into the first quarter. Following the Pelicans fast start though, the Pacers turned to their second ranked defense to get them back in the game and they did so with great success. Indiana held New Orleans to only two points over the next four minutes and nine points overall in the last nine minutes of the first quarter.
Despite the Pacers increased defensive intensity, New Orleans was able to keep the game within reach throughout the entire first half. Pelicans star Jrue Holiday asserted himself early and often on this night, registering 15 of his 19 points in the first half. Holiday wasn’t alone in his efforts, however, as all eight active Pelicans scored in the game’s first 24 minutes including a big man Jahlil Okafor, who nearly notched a double-double in the first half with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Jah would eventually get that double-double after halftime, finishing with 25 points and 13 rebounds in 33 minutes of action.
Leading 53-50 at intermission, Indiana turned the game into a full blown ugly Eastern Conference slug fest in the third quarter. With neither team shooting very well from the outside all night, the Pacers continued to impose their will defensively. As you might expect, New Orleans struggled to score inside the arc under the additional pressure, totaling only two points within the first three minutes of second half.
Weirdly, Jrue Holiday and Jahlil Okafor attempted only one shot combined in the third quarter, which compounded the offensive issues for New Orleans. However, the Pels were able to stay within striking distance due to timely contributions from their reserves. Third year center Cheick Diallo actually led all scorers in the third frame with eight points while Ian Clark racked up seven points.
In the fourth quarter the Pacers quickly stretched their lead to 10 points. However, as it’s become customary with New Orleans, the young Pels continued to fight and spent the rest of the fourth quarter slowly trimming the Pacers lead.
Although Holiday was ice cold and missed all four of his shot attempts, he found other ways to contribute and handed out five assists and nabbed four rebounds in the fourth quarter. He very nearly picked up his second triple double of his Pelicans career finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Despite Holiday’s shooting struggles, New Orleans had several opportunities to grab the lead late. After Darius Miller drained a key three-pointer, he wasn’t able to follow it up with another as he missed at the two minute mark and the Pelicans trailing by one. A minute later, Kenrich Williams, who suffered through a difficult 3-13 shooting performance, had a chance to put New Orleans ups 107-106, but his three-point attempt also missed the mark.
The Pelicans had one last gasp with 2.2 seconds left. Jrue Holiday was fouled with New Orleans down three, and after making his first free throw, he intentionally missed the second. Unfortunately, the Pelicans were unable to come up with the offensive rebound and get a good look to either tie up the affair or knock down the game-winner.
To his credit, Darren Collison made a couple of big shots on Indiana’s behalf and stretch the Pacer lead to a more comfortable margin. New Orleans former point guard tallied Indiana’s final six points and he wound up leading his team with 22 overall on the night.
I’m not sure how much longer New Orleans can continue playing short-handed, but Pels’ fans should really be appreciative of the effort that this team has put forth in recent games. While Anthony Davis and his Klutch Sports representation pretend to play 4-D chess with the basketball world, the Pelicans season has been thoroughly blown up by all of the trade speculation. While you can blame Davis or the Pels braintrust for the current situation, none of these players asked to be put in this position so we should be happy that they have responded in such a positive manner despite the difficult surrounding circumstances.
The Pelicans take on the beatable Chicago Bulls Wednesday night on the road in the United center. Lets hope the guys can get a much deserved win. Check back with us for all the latest Pelicans new and analysis.