If you’ve followed this page for a while you know that I have been a long time advocate of the team getting more veterans and making a consistent commitment on the defensive end.
The team needed floor-raisers on the bench, and another ceiling-lifter in the starting lineup.
Then the CJ McCollum trade happened. The arrivals of McCollum, Tony Snell, and hopefully soon Larry Nance Jr. have brought balance to the lineup.
It took a moment for Willie Green to figure out how to implement these new additions, but they’ve made it easier with their professionalism and their talent.
That, combined with the excellence of Brandon Ingram, the growth of Jaxson Hayes, and what has become a terrorizing defense, the Pelicans have won four games in a row in dominant fashion.
“It’s the effort that we all believe that we could get to; it just takes time to get there,” Willie Green said in postgame. “Now that we’re here, we are embracing the city, our team, and our community. We want to go out every game and play hard, compete hard, and share the basketball. It’s that simple. This is what happens when the guys continue to believe in each other.”
Friday night’s victim, the Utah Jazz. The Jazz arrived in New Orleans firmly rooted in fourth place in the Western Conference standings, winners of nine of their last 10 games. They will leave as the recipients of a 34-point beatdown.
There were plenty of witnesses at the Smoothie King Center who could describe the 124-90 thumping of a franchise that New Orleanians detest as much as they love the music it is named for.
They won’t have a problem snitching either. Pelicans fans are ready to tell any and every body about their team, which has come blazing out of the All-Star break with a flame that has consumed everything in sight.
After rendering the Jazz rhythmless, the Pels have beaten their last four opponents by an average of 28.6 points.
New Orleans is allowing just 95.5 points per game during its win streak with a NBA-best 95.0 defensive rating, a full 8 points better than second-place Orlando. Their net rating is an absurd +26.9 during the streak.
The Pels also improved to 22-6 when holding opponents to 105 points or less and 14-2 when their foes are kept in double digits.
They have held the Jazz under 100 points twice this season. The rest of the league has done it five times.
“I think it all starts with Willie (Green),” CJ McCollum said. “He’s doing a great job of teaching in practice and getting us to understand what he wants us to do from an execution standpoint. It’s about game plan and execution with guys following suit. It all starts with ‘Not on Herb.’ Herbert (Jones) has been doing a great job defensively. We’re blitzing random guys, and the rotations are where they need to be. When we play defense like that, it makes the game fun, and we can get out and run.”
On the other end of the court, the Pelicans were just as deadly and efficient. Brandon Ingram had a game high 29 points on 11-16 shooting to go along with eight boards and six assists in just another day at the office.
CJ McCollum’s scoring average will take a slight dip after he only scored 24 against Utah. It wasn’t the Jazz that slowed him down though. CJ only touched the court for 29 minutes.
The duo combined for more than 50 points while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.
On a different night, if the other three starters totaled 11 points there’s no way the Pelicans could have won a game.
Friday, the reserves were impactful and dynamic. Snell, Naji Marshall, and Willy Hernangomez provided the scoring with 35 points and 16 rebounds between them. Jose Alvarado had three steals in 19 minutes.
Everybody played and nearly everybody scored, with the exception of Gary Clark who didn’t take a shot in his short stint as the clock wound down.
Next up is a two-game road trip with games in Denver and Memphis, both teams the Pelicans have had success against.
The Pelicans have brushed up against this ceiling twice before; looking to turn a four game winning streak into five, something they haven’t done since the 2017-18 season. It’s not a real marker. New Orleans won’t earn a badge, sticker, cookie, or the respect of the national media if it does win a fifth straight game.
But it would mean something to a fan base that is fully behind its team, whether there are 12 or 12,000 among them.
Let’s go Pels.