“So the team that’s taken tanking to a new level with only 12 wins this year...” — Joel Meyers late in the game.
It’s impossible to disagree with this take from the Fox Sports New Orleans play-by-play announcer after witnessing a lethargic first half performance by the Pelicans and yet New Orleans went on to prevail by a healthy 130-116 margin over the Phoenix Suns.
On the first play of the game, Anthony Davis tried to hit a cutting Julius Randle towards the rim, but the ball ricocheted off his hands for a turnover. Devin Booker would up scoring the first two points of the game from the free throw line after getting fouled in transition. On the very next offensive possession, an Elfrid Payton pass was picked off by Kelly Oubre and the forward wound up slamming home a fastbreak dunk seconds later.
Four of the Pelicans first five possessions resulted in turnovers, and in addition to all of the miscues offensively through much of the first half, the New Orleans defense was akin to a red carpet. Phoenix found little resistance in getting to the rim or finding open looks from the perimeter. With 7:01 left in the second quarter, the Suns had a lead of 48-38 and one had the sense the Pelicans might be headed to their worst loss of the year — Phoenix had won just once since January 12th!
Fortunately for viewing fans, New Orleans turned things around. After closing the deficit to just one point at halftime, the Pelicans went on a tear in the third quarter, knocking down 15 of 21 shots. Their strong play continued in the fourth quarter as New Orleans maintained a comfortable lead throughout en route to a stressless finish.
“Oh, I just thought we started playing with a lot more energy.” said Alvin Gentry to postgame media. “I didn’t think we started the game with very much energy. But we started to play with a lot of energy, and started playing with ball movement and player movement — and that’s when we’re at our best.”
What changed? Well, a halftime speech was likely responsible for some of the spark.
“Yeah, I encouraged them in a different way. You’re right, Jen” said a grinning Gentry in response to Jen Hale’s question postgame about possible motivational tactics used at halftime after witnessing the change in Julius Randle and Jrue Holiday from the first half to the second half. “I really encouraged them in a very much different way.”
Obviously the message was heard loud and clear in the locker room as there were a lot of stellar lines posted after the final buzzer.
- 22 points, three rebounds, three assists for Julius Randle in 28 minutes.
- 21 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three triples for Jrue Holiday in 31 minutes.
- 15 points, 11 rebounds and two steals for Cheick Diallo in 21 minutes.
- 20 points, four triples, three rebounds and three steals for E’Twaun Moore in 22 minutes.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about Anthony Davis, he finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 21 minutes. Just like the rest of the team, he started slowly defensively, but picked up his intensity after the Pelicans made a concerted effort to give a damn.
The Suns were led by Devin Booker, who tallied 26 points, six rebounds, seven assists and one mean facial on Davis.
DEVIN BOOKER PUT AD ON A POSTER pic.twitter.com/Wm7AvJH4eo— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 2, 2019
Up next, the Pelicans will face the Nuggets tomorrow in Denver minus the services of AD.