Ryan Anderson makes immediate impact for Pelicans
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
The ball movement seemed crisper. Driving lanes appeared to be wider. A positive vibe permeated the New Orleans Arena, despite a three-game losing streak entering the night.
Saying that Ryan Anderson made a difference for the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday in the team’s 135-98 victory over Philadelphia may be a major understatement. Although there were other factors involved, the 2013-14 regular season debut of the 6-foot-10 power forward gave the Pelicans a drastically different look, particularly in comparison to a recently-completed 0-3 road trip.
One mixes preseason and regular season outcomes at their own peril, but the Pelicans have now lost just once in the eight total games Anderson has played (the only ‘L’ was an Oct. 23 exhibition game vs. two-time NBA champion Miami). After he missed the club’s first nine regular season games due to a broken toe, New Orleans was a disappointing 3-6.
The contrast was obvious Saturday, when the Pelicans posted their sixth-largest margin of victory in team history. Anderson’s 26 points paced a rejuvenated New Orleans bench that outscored its Philadelphia counterparts by a 71-39 margin. By virtue of that outstanding performance, the Pelicans’ reserves zoomed from near the back of the NBA pack to 12th in scoring average per game (33.3), according to Hoopsstats.com.
New Orleans players sound optimistic that the ranking will continue to climb as Anderson and fellow bench catalyst Tyreke Evans get more familiar with each other’s games.
“It just opens up the floor with Ryan back,” starting Pelicans center Jason Smith said. “It helps Tyreke have more driving lanes. We have so many different scoring capabilities that it’s tough on a defense trying to stop that.”
“Do you want to stay with Tyreke and leave Ryan open?” starting power forward Anthony Davis said of the dilemma opponents face with Anderson back on the floor. “Or do you want to stay on Ryan and let Tyreke drive to the basket?”
“It definitely felt like this was how it was supposed to be,” Evans said of having a full complement of healthy players. “Having him back opened things up. It makes it tough on a lot of teams.”
During his three-week absence, Anderson paid close attention to the way the Pelicans played. He and several teammates noted that when the Pelicans had difficulty offensively, it often was due to too many one-on-one scoring efforts and not enough ball movement. In addition to shooting a season-high 61 percent Saturday, New Orleans also had its best passing game so far, with 30 assists.
“Thirty assists in one game, to me, that’s a big-time focus on making sure that if I don’t have a shot, somebody else has it. It was just a consistent mind-set throughout the night,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said.
“When guys are double-teamed, there is always somebody open,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of different weapons on this team. Guys draw a lot of attention. When we find the open man off that, it’s huge.”
As the Pelicans’ homestand this week continues Wednesday and Friday, New Orleans would love to carry over that type of unselfish play into games vs. Utah and Cleveland.
“The key is consistency,” Anderson said after Saturday’s blowout. “This is just one game. We played great for 48 minutes tonight. That’s what we have to do every night. We can play so much better than how we’ve played.”