postgame: Pelicans 132, Lakers 125 (3/4/14)

by Jim Eichenhofer


By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer

LOS ANGELES – For the first time in a few weeks Tuesday, smiles replaced frowns in the New Orleans Pelicans’ postgame locker room. Instead of answering questions about what went wrong, the Pelicans discussed one of their finest offensive performances of 2013-14, a game in which nearly every member of the rotation made a key contribution. As Pelicans forward Tyreke Evans addressed the Los Angeles media following his 24-point, seven-rebound, 11-assist outing, teammate Austin Rivers joked with Anthony Morrow about how Evans and Morrow were wearing nearly the exact same postgame outfit, down to identical necklaces and bright red sneakers.

New Orleans (24-37) players thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the Staples Center, one in which they piled up their second-most points of the season. The Pelicans took advantage of open driving lanes all game long, en route to notching 67 points in the first half and 65 more after intermission.

Most importantly, the Pelicans ended their eight-game losing streak, a skein that dated back to New Orleans serving as host for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. In addition to Evans’ all-around excellence, the prolific New Orleans effort was spearheaded by a monstrous 28-point, 15-rebound game from Anthony Davis. Eric Gordon matched Davis by tallying 28 points, while also dishing out six assists. Brian Roberts (19 points) nearly made it four Pelicans players with 20 or more points, including delivering 10 key fourth-quarter points to help quell a comeback attempt by the Lakers (21-40).

“It was a big win,” Davis said. “We needed this win to get back on track, to get back in rhythm. We came out and played a full 48 minutes and played with a lot of intensity and effort. We always have one guy or two guys scoring. We need three or four. That was our mentality.”

“It felt great,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “The way we played, (the Lakers) scored a lot of points, but I thought our defense wasn’t as bad (as the score). Tyreke and Eric and AD were tremendous, especially early.”

New Orleans seemed en route to a comfortable victory after its offensive barrage in the first half. The Pelicans built a lead of 21 early in the third quarter, but the Lakers gradually chipped away, pulling within 97-93 three minutes into the fourth period. New Orleans withstood the surge, however, and went back up 119-107 with 4:52 remaining. Los Angeles wasn’t done yet, creating a few tense moments during the final minutes for New Orleans. When Pau Gasol made a free throw with 18 seconds to go, the Pelicans’ lead was down to just 128-125, but Gordon and Morrow sank two foul shots apiece from there to ice the victory.

“I liked the fact that we were able to take a punch tonight and give it back and close out a game,” Williams said. “It almost got away from us early in the fourth quarter, but it just feels good to win a game after all that we’ve been through. Our guys deserve a lot of credit for their ability to stay in there and hang in there and not give in.”

In a wide-open affair that at times featured back-and-forth offense vaguely reminiscent of an All-Star Game, New Orleans came within a three-pointer of matching its best scoring night of 2013-14, a 135-point eruption vs. Philadelphia on Nov. 16. The Pelicans posted 30 or more points in all four quarters against the Lakers, with the lone exception being a 28-point third quarter.

“It’s good to play in those type of games,” Gordon said. “I think we really excel in games when we’re attacking the rim and open up the floor. When we see driving lanes, it’s going to be hard to stop us. When you see us casting up jump shots, settling and not attacking, that’s one of our downfalls.”

“We talked before the game about how we wanted to get a lot of guys rolling,” Roberts said. “That’s what happened tonight. It was a total team effort. That was big for us.”