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Pelicans' unselfishness in late-game moments fuels playoff quest

By any means necessary. That is the mantra the New Orleans Pelicans have adopted recently in their pursuit of wins that will fuel their playoff quest. If that means finishing games with one of their bigger stars on the bench, so be it. They did it Sunday without DeMarcus Cousins on the floor in Sunday’s win over Philadelphia and again Wednesday night with Rajon Rondo on the bench in the final minutes of a win over Milwaukee.

The wrinkle here, though, is that it hasn’t been Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry instigating the change. It’s his stars who have gone to him and suggested that he allow their depth and chemistry to carry them during these crucial, late-game moments. It is that unselfishness on the part of All-Stars that, according to William Guillory of the Times Picayune, could change the tenor of the entire season in New Orleans:

Gentry’s willingness to close games with lineups that don’t feature some his better players shows the Pelicans’ improved depth and the unselfish nature that has spread throughout the roster.

“It’s about wins,” said Cousins, who finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.”The thing I appreciate about this team is that we play for each other, it’s about the win at the end of the night — it’s not about numbers. I think everyone in this locker room at one point in their career have gotten numbers. Right now, it’s about winning. We’re trying to take that next step as a team.”

That type of selflessness correlates to the way the Pelicans (15-14) play on the court and it’s helped them develop into one of the best passing teams around the league.

New Orleans shot 56.2 percent had a season-high 35 assists on Wednesday — its third straight game reaching 30 or more assists, which ties a franchise record.

The Pelicans are registering 26.7 assists per game (second in the NBA) and they are finally playing with the pace and ball movement Gentry has been trying to install since his arrival in New Orleans two seasons ago.

“I just think we’re very unselfish and we move the basketball. We’ve been able to get very good shots,” Gentry said. “I thought we were doing that earlier in the year but we weren’t making them. But now we’re kind of locked in and we’re making those shots.”