The victory was never truly in serious jeopardy after the Pelicans had piled up 74 points on 57.4% shooting from the field and 47.4% from three-point range in the first half, but the Cavaliers did manage to slice a 22-point deficit late in the third quarter to just eight with 7:39 left in regulation.
“We’ve got to do a better job ourselves of being in that situation and being able to close out games,” head coach Alvin Gentry said to postgame media. “We should have been in a situation where our bench players should have been able to finish that game, and we didn’t have to play guys an extra 4-5 minutes.”
Regardless of the hiccup, the win counts the same as any dominant blow-out, and there were a lot of positives to take away from the Pelicans seventh win in their last eight tries against sub .500 teams.
Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram were phenomenal right out of the gates, combining for 26 points in the first quarter. Jrue also tallied four assists, two blocks and two steals while B’Easy went a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc.
During halftime, assistant coach Jamelle McMillian relayed to Jen Hale of Fox Sports New Orleans that Ingram’s hot start was confirmation of earlier events. BI’s right knee, which has caused him to miss five games this season, is feeling better and Ingram’s preparation leading up to tonight’s matchup was excellent.
Although Ingram quieted some in the second half, he still finished with 24 points on 13 shots and added six assists and two steals.
Holiday, though, sparkled from start to finish and the numbers jump off the page: 28 points (10-16 FGAs), eight assists, two rebounds, three steals and four blocks. During the third quarter, one felt Jrue could possible achieve that rare 5x5 line (a statistical line of five or more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in a single game).
The offense was great, the defense even better.
“He can guard anybody,” said Gentry. “It doesn’t matter. We don’t look at it as a mismatch and we weren’t going to go down and double team, as you can see. When they threw it into Kevin Love, we just told him to guard him. I think they threw it in three times and Jrue came up with three stops. That’s who he is.”
Zion Williamson had a somewhat quiet game when compared to his previous three outings, but 14 points and nine rebounds is nothing to scoff at for a rookie acclimating himself to the league after such a huge lay-off. The bigger take-aways from the number one overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft though was that he appeared in six different bursts, totaling 30 minutes of action, and he downplayed the stats in favor of the team win in his interview with Jen Hale.
Zion Williamson just told Jen Hale that he's not remotely concerned about the lack of stats tonight: "We all want to make the playoffs. To do that, we gotta get wins."— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) January 29, 2020
Such sweet music. Ahhh!
Derrick Favors, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds, had the team’s best plus/minus on the night (+24), and it synced well with the eye test. When Favors was in, the Pelicans offense flowed while the defense suffocated the Cavaliers. When he wasn’t on the floor, the breakdowns by the Pelicans were all too numerous.
In sinking just two of 10 shot attempts, Lonzo Ball struggled to score, but his eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals were timely. In addition, with Cleveland making their run in the fourth quarter, the Pelicans seemed to regain control when Ball re-entered the contest. The offense had lost their way and were settling for too many ill-advised threes, but immediately after Zo stepped back onto the court, Nicolo Melli (11 points, four rebounds, three threes) knocked down a couple of threes and JJ Redick (15 points, three rebounds, three assists) drilled a midrange jumper.
Jaxson Hayes wowed us all on this finish...
NO CEILINGS FOR JAXSON HAYES OH MY pic.twitter.com/ltzqY6Hzjx— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 29, 2020
...but the defense collapsed (-12 +/-) so he was limited to 15 minutes.
Josh Hart had a couple of fine defensive plays, but he couldn’t locate the basket, missing all but one of his five shot attempts. Surprisingly, I thought Frank Jackson (nine points) looked good in his action, but he was held to nine minutes.
E’Twaun Moore registered a DNP due to neck spasms.
Up next, the Pelicans come home and get two days off — more Zion practice time — before welcoming the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday for a very important matchup. The Grizz knocked off the Nuggets tonight and have a 2.5 game lead on the currently ninth seeded Spurs in the Western Conference.
If playoff hopes want to remain a real thing, New Orleans must find a way to stop Ja Morant and company!