With Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson unavailable due to ankle sprains, the New Orleans Pelicans needed for Jrue Holiday to step up and play like an All-Star. Well, that he did and more. Holiday produced a line of 31 points, six rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and four three-pointers in leading New Orleans to a 124-117 road victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Holiday was in the midst of a solid game but turned spicy hot in clutch minutes — this after colliding with Domantas Sabonis in the first half and sustaining a cut above his right eye that required five stitches. With the Pelicans leading 104-103 at the 4:52 mark of the fourth quarter, he proceeded to put his fingerprints all over crunch time by scoring 14 points and dishing one assist.
- forced Sabonis into a traveling violation in the post
- dropped a sweet dime from the baseline to a cutting Derrick Favors for two
- nailed a three-pointer
- hit a two
- knocked down another three-pointer
- went 6-6 from the free throw line to finish off the Pacers.
“Well at the end he did exactly what we needed for him to do,” Alvin Gentry said in describing Jrue’s All-Star-like performance. “He was aggressive, got the ball in the paint, and obviously made some shots.”
However, I would be remiss without mentioning that Saturday’s win was a true team win because it sure felt like every player made a positive contribution or five.
“I will say that this was our best team win from the standpoint of I think everybody contributed at some stage and gave us a lift or was able to maintain something that we were doing,” Gentry said. “From that standpoint and the quality of opponent, that was a really good win.”
Lonzo Ball closed with a line of 15 points, seven assists and five boards, and nailed all three of his shot attempts in the final frame. This included a great drive and finish at the rim — after each onlooker was certain with every fiber of their being that he was going to settle for a step-back three-point attempt seconds earlier.
Derrick Favors posted another double-double (15 points and 11 rebounds) despite only 24 minutes of action. That was a theme on the night by the way. Early and often, the referees were throwing personal fouls at the Pelican bigs like Oprah likes to hand out cars. Nicolo Melli and Favors had four fouls through three quarters and Jaxson Hayes had five. The threat was real that New Orleans might be finishing the game with a lineup of five guards.
I cannot honestly recall the last time that the Pelicans were hit with this many offensive fouls collectively as a group. This despite the fact that Domantas Sabonis was either bordering or downright setting illegal screens continuously on the other end. Fortunately, New Orleans was whistled for just one foul throughout the entire fourth quarter and Sabonis did pick up several offensive fouls in the second half.
Speaking of Melli, he was solid in his start in place of Zion. He opened the Pelicans scoring in the game with a three-pointer and finished with a line of nine points, six rebounds and three threes. Not only was his perimeter shooting useful, he also moved himself and the ball nicely in conjunction with the guards on the perimeter to create a great flow for New Orleans offense. In addition, his defense was passable!
For as good as Jrue was in clutch minutes, JJ Redick was similarly on fire throughout the first half, carrying the Pelicans offense.
JJ on the move!— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 9, 2020
He leads both teams with 14 first-half points and counting pic.twitter.com/FWJHsrRlxG
JJ scored 19 of his 23 points before halftime and he continues to do a lot of small things that fans fail to give him credit for. For instance, on one defensive possession, I noticed he saw Sabonis crashing the offensive glass but cut-off that foray into the paint by boxing out the Eastern Conference All-Star representative with a great arm-bar well outside of the restricted area.
In fact, the entire Pelicans team needs to be lauded for their fantastic effort in keeping the Pacers off the glass. Indiana failed to grab a single offensive rebound in the first half and finished with a paltry two at game’s end.
Josh Hart, who started in place of Ingram and entered the game averaging 7.9 rebounds since Zion’s return, registered nine points and seven rebounds. And asides Redick, we saw productive minutes out of Jahlil Okafor (how about that drive and slam!), Frank Jackson (nine points, four rebounds, 4-4 FTs), Jaxson Hayes (another highlight worthy dunk) and E’Twaun Moore (seven points, four rebounds).
At the final buzzer, New Orleans had out-rebounded the Pacers by a 53-37 margin (16-2 difference in offensive boards!), knocked down 15 threes, made 21 of 25 free throws, and perhaps most importantly, never suffered through one of those really painful patented stretches where the offense and defense collapses simultaneously.
Great team win indeed.
Up next, there’s only two games left before the all-star break and they’re both important Western Conference matchups. New Orleans will welcome the Portland Trail Blazers next Tuesday and then the OKC Thunder on Thursday.
How sweet would it be to enter the long break on a four-game winning streak to keep playoff hopes alive?