The Pelican Blog

Al-Farouq Aminu shoots a jumper against the Chicago Bulls

Aminu, Smith among unsung heroes of 3OT win

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

CHICAGO – Jrue Holiday was surrounded by Chicagoland reporters, who all wanted to know how the New Orleans Pelicans point guard was able to get so open on the decisive three-point play of Monday’s, 131-128 triple-overtime win against the Bulls. Not far from Holiday’s crowded United Center locker, teammate Ryan Anderson went national, sitting down for a four-minute interview with NBA TV’s studio hosts.

While Holiday (19 points, 12 assists) and Anderson (career-high 36 points, second straight game with 7 three-pointers) deservedly received the lion’s share of attention after what may have been the most entertaining game of the 2013-14 NBA season, the Pelicans also benefited from a few unsung heroes. With Anthony Davis sidelined due to a fractured left hand, it will be imperative that New Orleans (9-8) continues to get production from every portion of Monty Williams’ rotation. During the club’s 3-0 Eastern Conference road trip, the Pelicans’ primary scorers – particularly Anderson – picked up their offensive numbers noticeably, but there were also a few unexpected developments from players you may not have expected to factor so prominently in Monday’s thriller:

  • After receiving his first DNP-coach’s decision of the season in Philadelphia on Friday, Al-Farouq Aminu appeared to be out of the rotation, but the Pelicans leaned heavily on Aminu to defend Carmelo Anthony in crunch time of Sunday’s narrow 103-99 win at New York. For an encore Monday, Aminu returned to the starting lineup and was the key figure for New Orleans during the second overtime period. While scoring seven of the team’s 13 points in the second OT, Aminu picked a perfect time to sink his first three-pointer of 2013-14. He did commit a mental mistake by being whistled for an exceptionally-rare travel as a baseline inbounds passer, but the Pelicans may not have withstood the Bulls without the small forward’s late-game work.
  • With his tag-team partner in the paint Davis sidelined by injury, starting center Jason Smith will likely need to focus even more on rebounding. Without Davis and backup center Greg Stiemsma (knee), the Pelicans will often rely on small lineups, putting more pressure on the 7-foot Smith and the 6-foot-10 Anderson to hold their own on the backboards. Smith responded Monday with 12 points and a career-best 14 rebounds, for his sixth double-double as a pro.
  • An unsigned free agent prior to New Orleans acquiring him in mid-November, Lou Amundson’s minutes may also climb in Davis’ absence. The Pelicans need the 6-foot-10 Amundson’s interior defense and activity around the basket. On Monday, the UNLV product drew the unenviable task of grappling with the likes of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson in the paint and fouled out in just 15 minutes of action. However, Amundson blocked two Chicago shots and pulled down four rebounds. The bigger Bulls won the rebounding battle by a single board, 55-54.
Along with those valuable performances from role players, starting shooting guard Eric Gordon delivered several of the game’s many big shots Monday, including a three-pointer near the end of the first OT that tied it at 109. Gordon had a below-average 7-for-23 shooting night from the field, but seemed to score nearly all of his baskets at crucial moments. Gordon racked up 15 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and first OT alone. He tallied nine points in the final 5:22 of regulation to help force extra basketball.

“We really came together and figured out who we are,” Gordon said of the teamwide effort vs. Chicago. “It’s always good to have when everybody’s a part of it, everybody’s doing their part to try to take over the game. We did it all as one. It was good to see guys come in and step up. It was an overall fun game.”