After eight losses, New Orleans Pelicans find 'relief' in securing first victory

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

MILWAUKEE – After spotting the rest of the NBA – well, OK, not Philadelphia but everybody else – a head start of more than two weeks, the New Orleans Pelicans finally planted their heels and won a game, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 112-106 at at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

All together now: Exhale.

“Hell, yeah. Of course it was relief,” said coach Alvin Gentry, his eyes a little red after working hard to the wire for the Pelicans’ first victory of the season. “Are you kidding me? We were 0-8 and fighting for our lives. Everything that we’d done had some kind of way gone bad. And to be able to finish the game and come away with the win, yeah, it’s relief.

“We’re not gonna sit here and go, ‘Oh, yeah, it was just another game.’ Nah. It was huge relief for us.”

New Orleans – which began last season 0-6 – had been sabotaging itself from the start, getting outscored by an average of 4.8 points in the first quarters. This time, the Pelicans trailed by just one, 27-26, after 12 minutes. Then, when they erased Milwaukee’s last lead to go up 44-42 midway through the second quarter, they ebbed and flowed but never fell behind again.

Sparked in the third quarter by guard E’Twaun Moore’s 14 points, New Orleans stretched a 61-54 halftime lead to 15 points. When the Bucks got within 90-87 with 9:09 left in the fourth, Omer Asik’s put-back and free throw, Anthony Davis’ dunk and Moore’s pull-up jumper nudged the lead back to 10.

Down the stretch, Gentry’s crew gave up too many second chances – Milwaukee had nine offensive rebounds in the quarter – but Davis scored 11 of New Orleans’ final 13 points to hang on. It was 108-106 with 15.3 seconds left when Matthew Dellavedova missed the second of two free throws, and Davis grabbed the rebound that mattered most. The Pelicans’ star forward had 32 points, eight rebounds and, going 8-for-8, led a 25-of-27 team effort from the foul line.

The Bucks, back on Nov. 1, had erased the Pelicans’ only previous lead through three quarters, winning in New Orleans. But this time, New Orleans limited the bleeding by narrowing Milwaukee’s scoring options.

“The one thing we tried to do was make sure we didn’t have game-plan mistakes like we did the last time,” Gentry said. In the first meeting, Dellavedova, Tony Snell, Mirza Teletovic and rookie Malcolm Brogdon combined for 46 points. In the rematch, those four totaled 29.

“Because of that, we could absorb 33 points from Jabari [Parker],” Gentry said.

Said Moore, who finished with 20 points: “It feels good, just for our morale, team morale and boosts everyone’s confidence that, ‘OK, we’re capable of winning in this league after losing so many in a row.’ ”

After last year’s sluggish start, New Orleans only made it to 30-52 in Gentry’s first season. This time? Nope, no one was looking beyond the game they’d just played and the most pleasant flight of the season so far, heading home to face the Lakers Saturday.

“For us, a win is a win and I’m not going to look at anything negative about it,” Gentry said. “I can do that tomorrow or some other time. Because those guys have worked so hard, they deserved the win. The way they’ve worked and the way they’ve kind of hung together and stayed and just kind of stuck it out, and fought, they deserved this.”

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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