Come from behind road wins against good playoff-caliber teams in the Western Conference are officially a thing.
Precisely 48 hours ago, the New Orleans Pelicans erased a 19-point deficit to upend the Nuggets in Denver, and tonight the 504 try-hards came back from 17 points down against a hot Jazz squad in frigid Utah, posting an improbable 115-112 victory.
With 3:41 left to go in the second quarter, the Pelicans trailed 58-41 after Ricky Rubio canned a corner three. However, New Orleans would go on to close the first half out on a 9-3 run, and then they continued to fight throughout the second half — even when they trailed by as many as 14 points twice in the fourth quarter.
“I think that’s probably an accurate word: resilient,” said Alvin Gentry to postgame media. “I just thought that we continued to play and we made some adjustments defensively. Obviously, they were hurting us on the pick and roll, well with both guys, Favors and Gobert rolling to the basket.”
In the first half, Kyle Korver poured in 15 points and 4 threes and Rudy Gobert had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
“We’ve played like that the last couple of weeks where we just continued to play,” continued Gentry. “We’ve had some bad quarters or bad halves but we kind of put them behind us, and we tried to really just execute better and pick up our defense — I thought we really picked up our defense. We were able to run Korver off some of the shots that he was making and then we did a good job of staying back and not allowing the lob pass for the dunk. And then we were able to push the pace of the game. We were trying to get the pace of the game up the whole game. I thought we did that for the last quarter and a half.”
The Pelicans were led by none other than Jrue Holiday, who kept New Orleans within striking distance throughout the first half with crafty scoring inside the paint and a deft touch from beyond the arc. He finished with 30 points, four assists, four threes and another key defensive play late to aid the cause.
This freaking guy.— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) March 5, 2019
Jrue Orleans. pic.twitter.com/ZBujIAP2e6
In addition to this singular effort, Holiday was a big reason why Donovan Mitchell, who was fresh off a 46-point performance against the Milwaukee Bucks and has been hotter than a firecracker these last few months, struggled to make just 8-24 field goal attempts.
“Oh, he just missed shots,” said Gentry. “Hey, he shot those same shots the other night and had 46. We did a great job on him from the standpoint of being in his airspace and being able to challenge him, but he’s very capable of making those shots. But I’m going to give credit to my guys tonight because I thought they were there and challenged him.”
Julius Randle, after lighting the Nuggets up for 28 points, totaled 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against a staunch Utah front line featuring the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. Randle had an incredible sequence that was as important as any in the stolen victory. With 3:06 remaining in the fourth, Randle scored over Gobert on a pretty spin move to push the Pelicans lead late to six, and then seconds later, he erased a shot by Utah’s starting center at the rim.
.@J30_Randle putting a former defensive player of the year in the spin cycle. #DoItBig | @PelicansNBA pic.twitter.com/dYyLD6FEdK— FOXSports NewOrleans (@FOXSportsNOLA) March 5, 2019
As an aside, Randle has disappointed in a lot of areas outside of scoring for much of the season, but he deserves some credit now for improvement that I’ve noted according to the eye test. Over the last few contests or so, he seems to be playing under more control when he’s got the ball and is looking to attack, plus we’re also seeing instances of second effort on defense. Randle will likely never be confused with being a complete two-way player, but if he can occasionally make a difference defensively, that would go a long way and make him more enticing to the New Orleans Pelicans front office for re-signing purposes once he likely opts out of his current contract this summer.
Among the other Pelicans who contributed significantly, Elfrid Payton finished with 10 points, six assists and four rebounds, but his best highlight came with 24 seconds left and New Orleans trailing by a point. Payton ripped the rebound away from Joe Ingles’ grasp and then proceeded to score on a reverse lay-in from among the trees.
Minutes earlier, Kenrich Williams (seven points, seven rebounds, three assists) factored decisively in three straight possessions. He assisted in the Jazz turning the ball over, nailed a three-point bomb on the other end, and then immediately followed that up with taking a charge on Mitchell.
Williams taking a charge on Donovan Mitchell capped off 3 consecutive individual efforts by him which were directly responsible for Pelicans lead increasing from 106-105 to 111-105 late.— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) March 5, 2019
Also note the glee on faces of E'Twaun, Elfrid and Julius in helping Kenrich off the ground. pic.twitter.com/dXQ2BFV5Xk
Look at the joy on the faces of E’Twaun Moore, Payton and Randle when they went to go help the rookie up off the ground. It’s another great example of how the guys have put the Anthony Davis saga in the back of their minds and are playing for each other right now — relishing the fight and never giving up regardless the size of any deficit.
(AD finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 22 minutes — but only 0.9 seconds came in the fourth quarter when he defended the inbounder and deflected the pass.)
Up next, the Pelicans will face this same Utah Jazz team on Wednesday, but this time, the game will be played within the comforts of the Smoothie King Center. See you there and geaux Pels!