Pelicans guard/forward E’Twaun Moore in midst of career-best shooting stretch

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

E’Twaun Moore is one of the quietest, most soft-spoken players on the New Orleans Pelicans’ roster, occasionally admitting to being a bit camera-shy. Well, the guard/forward has created a bit of a problem for himself on that front lately – in the midst of an incredible shooting tear during the first two weeks of December, everyone in the Crescent City media wants to talk to him.

Now in his seventh NBA season, Moore has been the league’s No. 1 three-point shooter in December, and it’s not even close. He is 29/43 from long distance over the past eight games, shooting a blistering 67.4 percent and highlighted by a 6/8 outing at Houston on Monday. His career-best 36-point outburst against the Rockets drew the attention of SportsCenter, NBA TV’s nightly highlight show, as well as Zach Lowe’s popular podcast.

In typical fashion Moore, who is averaging 19.6 points per game in December after putting up 11.2 prior to this month, downplays his recent excellence. He joked on Pelicans postgame radio after Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee that he doesn’t want to jinx his shooting touch by discussing it too much.

“With me, I just stay level-headed and stay the same way every day,” Moore said prior to the Bucks game. “(The 36-point night at Houston), it’s just one game. I need a lot more. If at the end of the season, we’ve made the playoffs, that’s when I might look back at it and say I played well or I’ll be satisfied. Right now it’s about continuing to keep going for it.

“But I will say it’s been good to get positive feedback from different people and see that they are taking notice.”

Along with Jrue Holiday’s offensive surge in recent weeks, Moore has given New Orleans (15-14) another weapon to support top-10 NBA scorers DeMarcus Cousins (26.1 points per game) and Anthony Davis (25.1). The Pelicans have tallied at least 115 points in six of their last seven games, one of the best offensive stretches in team history. For Moore individually, he’s already registered five games of 20-plus points this season, something he accomplished just once in 2016-17, his first season with New Orleans. His 20-plus games vs. Houston and Milwaukee this week mark the first time in the NBA he’s had consecutive games with that many points.

“Probably scoring-wise, it’s one of the best stretches I’ve had,” the Purdue University product said, when asked if his recent performance is his best as a pro. “I’m just being aggressive. It’s probably the most minutes I’ve played, too. I don’t know if that’s a contributor factor, too.”

The 6-foot-4 Moore was moved permanently into the Pelicans’ starting lineup Nov. 20 and as a result is logging a career-most 32.3 minutes per game. He’s always been regarded as a quality perimeter shooter (career 38.5 percent from three-point range), but rarely filled a major role on any of his previous three NBA teams. He credits Alvin Gentry and New Orleans coaches for having the confidence in him to assume bigger responsibility.

“When you’ve got the freedom to play a lot of minutes, it’s just a lot different,” said Moore, who played for Boston, Orlando and Chicago prior to signing with New Orleans in July 2016. “There have been some games in the past where maybe I had 18 points in the first half, but then in the second half maybe I wouldn’t play as much. I give credit to Coach, for having faith in me to go out there and do what I do. That helps a lot.”

The confidence of Moore - often known on the team's official Twitter account as "3 Twaun" due to his success beyond the arc - has appeared to skyrocket during this stretch. He is shooting so well that it’s seemingly a shock when the ball doesn’t find the bottom of the net, particularly when he can set his feet at the three-point stripe. His 67.4 percent on threes this month is nearly 15 percent better than any other player (Denver’s Jamal Murray is second at 52.8 percent, minimum 20 makes).

Local media has joked with Moore in recent days that he better be prepared for more TV cameras and attention if he continues to be red-hot. Moore, who is ninth all-time on the Big Ten Conference’s career scoring list, says he hasn’t been this comfortable on the hardwood since he was a Purdue Boilermaker.

“I’ve had some good games in the NBA, but overall, honestly (it’s the best I’ve felt) probably since college,” he said. “That was the last time I was in kind of a zone, just playing freely.”