Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 121, 76ers 105
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
PHILADELPHIA – After using the same starting five for the season’s first 14 games, New Orleans Pelicans Coach Monty Williams made a change Friday, replacing Al-Farouq Aminu at small forward with Anthony Morrow. Still, Williams’ most valuable lineup alteration in Philadelphia was much more straightforward – put the team’s best five players on the floor, then let them go to work.
For the most extensive amount of court time so far in 2013-14, Williams went to the high-powered offensive quintet of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis, with promising results. A five-man unit NBA.com recently described as the Pelicans’ “ultimate offensive lineup” gave the 76ers’ defense fits, scoring repeatedly on fast breaks or at the rim.
In his first game as a 76ers opponent in Philadelphia, Holiday threatened his third career triple-double, finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists. Fellow starting guard Gordon had arguably his best game this season, notching 26 points (on 11-for-16 shooting) and seven assists. Evans, Anderson and Davis rounded out the group by each also scoring at least 16 points. All told, the fivesome combined to rack up 102 points, nearly equaling Philadelphia’s final output.
New Orleans (7-8) opened its three-game Eastern Conference road trip in excellent fashion, outscoring Philadelphia (6-11) in every quarter en route to its second battering of the 76ers in as many tries. On Nov. 16 in New Orleans, the Pelicans piled up 135 points in a 37-point victory.
“I think two things,” 76ers Coach Brett Brown said of the pair of one-sided games. “I think they’re a good team. I think they’re a hard team for us to guard. I think at times when we tried to extend the defense and press, they went through it and they had success at the back end, even when we went through a press. It felt like there were a lot of layups being taken. There were far too many layups being taken.”
Brown’s perspective was illustrated by two stats: New Orleans held a 25-6 advantage in fast-break points and scored 60 points in the paint on 30-for-48 shooting. The Pelicans have periodically struggled to convert close-range shots early in the regular season, but didn’t have that concern Friday while shooting 55 percent against Philadelphia.
“We have a ton of weapons, with a lot of guys who can draw attention and get the ball to wide-open shooters,” said Anderson (18 points, 4-for-9 on treys). “Eric, Jrue, Tyreke – guys that can really attack the rim and finish. We kind of have a very complete team. It’s fun to play basketball like that, when we’re really running and we’ve got it going.”
Holiday took advantage of the Pelicans’ offensive arsenal in his 13-assist game, but he also scored nine and 11 points in the respective halves, providing a dual threat against the Sixers and several of his former teammates. The 2013 Eastern Conference All-Star point guard was the only Pelicans starter who was not heavily booed by the notorious Philadelphia fans, receiving a nice ovation from a majority of the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center. After being introduced to appreciative cheers from 76ers fans, Holiday had perhaps his best all-around game in a Pelicans uniform.
“It was fun being back here and the crowd showing me a little bit of love,” Holiday said. “I didn’t hear too many boos. It was a little surprising, but it’s definitely good.”
Although they were grouped with other combinations throughout Friday's game, the five-man unit of Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis each individually finished at least plus-8 in scoring margin. Gordon led the group at plus-20, meaning New Orleans outscored Philadelphia by a total of 20 points whenever Gordon was on the court.