Despite loss to Pacers, Pelicans trio flourishes
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Prior to the potent Indiana forward duo of Paul George and David West dominating in crunch time on Wednesday, the New Orleans Pelicans very much looked the part of an upstart with realistic hopes of securing a playoff berth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. New Orleans surged to a 14-point halftime lead over the title-contending Pacers, and still led by nine points with just over nine minutes remaining.
It wasn’t the type of across-the-board, balanced performance New Orleans often received during preseason, but the Pelicans trio of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon excelled on Opening Night. Davis and the team’s starting backcourt compiled nearly identical shooting numbers, with each registering exactly eight field goals. They combined to score 69 points and go 24-for-57 from the floor, accounting for all but 10 of the hosts’ baskets. The Pelicans will be without invaluable sixth man Ryan Anderson for the next one to three weeks due to a toe injury, making it even more critical that New Orleans’ talented starters – along with reserve Tyreke Evans – have productive games.
A closer look at the trio’s performances vs. Indiana in the season opener:
• Davis, who had six performances as a rookie of 20 points and 10 rebounds out of 64 appearances, achieved the feat against a formidable Pacers frontcourt crew by notching 20 points and 12 rebounds. His aggressive approach on offense resulted in seven offensive rebounds, a career high. Davis often drove to the basket or crashed the glass in pursuit of a missed shot, using his 6-foot-10 height and wingspan to tip in balls the Pacers could not reach. “I thought AD was attacking the basket, and that was really good for us,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said.
• In his first game in a New Orleans uniform, Holiday showed off his smooth, no-wasted-motion floor game, repeatedly getting into the lane or pulling up for mid-range jumpers. Holiday’s multi-dimensional outing consisted of 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The former 76ers All-Star also sliced his turnovers to just two, part of a decent 15-turnover game by the Pelicans overall. “He did an excellent job, making big shots for us, big free throws and great decision-making,” Davis said of Holiday’s NOLA debut. “But he’s only going to get better.”
• Gordon was just as aggressive as Davis in trying to get to the rim, resulting in a team-high nine free-throw attempts. The shooting guard was also accurate from three-point range (3-for-5), a big chunk of his Pelicans-high 25 points. Gordon scored 25 points or more in three of his 42 appearances last season, making this one of his better New Orleans performances since arriving in 2011. “We showed how good we could be,” Gordon said of the Pelicans’ first half and stretches of the second. “If we take away those lapses, and play more together, we’ll get better as the games go along.”
After taking time to watch video and assess Wednesday’s loss, Williams was encouraged by much of his team’s performance, but pointed to a few fourth-quarter sequences that proved costly. New Orleans forced up a few shots in critical moments, resulting in several empty possessions. “We (were) playing against a team that is probably the best in the NBA right now, based on how they’re playing so early. When you have a chance to beat them, every possession is valuable,” Williams said. “It didn’t seem that we were taking the kind of shots (appropriate) for the moment. Guys all realized after the game that we could’ve had better offense down the stretch.”