Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 135, 76ers 98
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
As far back as July, Monty Williams talked about how he wanted to see the combination of Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson on the floor together, providing the New Orleans Pelicans with a potentially potent bench duo. It took a while, but Saturday night, the Evans/Anderson pairing finally got the chance to team up. The initial results couldn’t have been much better.
In his first regular season appearance of 2013-14, Anderson poured in 26 points, including 6 of 10 three-point shooting, while Evans finished with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Combined with a career night from Anthony Davis in the shot-blocking category, the Pelicans romped to their most one-sided victory of the young season. Davis netted 13 points, his lowest-scoring game of his second NBA season, but was a force in other ways. Despite resting the entire fourth quarter with the outcome decided, the Kentucky product rejected eight Philadelphia shots, a career high for Davis and only four blocks shy of the New Orleans all-time franchise record (Vlade Divac once had 12).
On a night where just about everything went right for New Orleans (4-6), eight players reached double figures in scoring. The 37-point victory was the sixth-largest winning margin in the 25-year history of the franchise.
Playing in his first game since an Oct. 25 preseason tilt at Orlando, Anderson came out aggressively, firing up a shot per minute during his first-half court time. Most of them went in, with Anderson rolling to 14 points prior to intermission, spearheading New Orleans to a 67-46 halftime advantage. By the end of three quarters, the lead ballooned to 103-66 and six Pelicans had already reached double figures in scoring. By game’s end, four reserves achieved the feat, including Anderson (26), Evans (15), Brian Roberts (14) and Austin Rivers, who scored all 12 of his points in the final 7:28.
The reserves' combined tally of 71 points was a sign of the unit’s potential, the first chance to see a planned lineup Williams mapped out this summer to bring Anderson and Evans off the bench, despite both being among the team’s best players.
“When Tyreke is playing like that, attacking the basket, and Ryan is shooting the crap out of the ball, it’s tough for teams to guard,” Davis said of the bench’s effectiveness. “Do you want to stay with Tyreke and leave Ryan open? Or do you want to stay on Ryan and let Tyreke drive to the basket? Then you’ve also got Brian (Roberts) who can shoot and handle the ball, and Anthony Morrow, who can shoot. So our second unit is very good. They can start anywhere else – and they could even start on this team. We’ve got a great second unit.”
“Obviously, Tyreke brings an extra element off the bench,” Anderson said. “A ton of energy. The key is, when everyone plays at a high level, we just need to keep that consistency. We’ve shown in stretches that we can play like that, but then we’ll (lose) a quarter. Tonight was a big confidence-booster to see how good we can be when we play 48 minutes.”
During his excellent 2013 preseason prior to breaking his toe days prior to Oct. 30 Opening Night, Anderson repeatedly received wide-open looks from the three-point arc. The Pelicans shot over 50 percent as a team from long distance, with Anderson appearing in seven of the eight games. The power forward wasted no time getting back into a shooting groove in his first game in 22 days. As a team, New Orleans shot a scorching 60.5 percent Saturday and was 13-for-28 from three-point range, two treys shy of tying the franchise record.
“We were just moving the ball,” Anderson said. “I think a big difference (compared to recent games) was that we weren’t forcing shots. We were finding the open man. We shot the ball great because of that.”
Despite the three-week layoff, Anderson showed no ill effects of being sidelined, playing one of his best games in a New Orleans uniform over the past season-plus.
“I told Coach (Williams), ‘Let me go. If I’m feeling pretty gassed, I’ll let you know,’ ” Anderson said of having no minute restrictions or limitations in his return. “But I felt great. It’s hard to know what kind of shape you’re in when you’re not on the court, but I felt good.”