The Pelicans beat the Knicks 104-93 last night. That’s the two-time world champion New York Knicks, if we’re keeping count. The win puts the Pelicans at 10-10 after 20 games, one game behind the Phoenix Suns for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Pelicans had four players in double figures, with Tyreke Evans’s 27 points leading all scorers. Let’s take a look at what happened in this game, what we’ve seen over the first 20 games and what’s up next.
Altron takes it easy
Anthony Davis finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and 1 steal. In a game where the Pelicans pulled away in the second half, The Browed God didn’t get into the fourth quarter until the 4:26 mark. Anthony only shot 6-14 from the field and 6-9 from the free throw line. That puts him at 65% from the charity stripe over the last five games. Those numbers will come back up, it’s just a rough stretch over a small sample size. However, it’s a good sign that he got to the line 9 times in a game. And it’s not like he didn’t have his usual share of “holy shit” moments either.
TyrekeBall: alive and well
Dedicated readers of this blog and its about seven posts will know about TyrekeBall, Tyreke Evans’s own sport that he engages in during NBA games. The basic premise is: passing is optional, cool dribbling is the most important part, and traveling and carrying don’t exist. Also try to score points because that’s pretty cool. Well, 5-time TyrekeBall MVP Tyreke Evans had a great showing in both his own sport and actual basketball last night. Evans finished with 27 points on 11-15 shooting, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. But it’s not just what he put up, but how he got those numbers. Tyreke started strong, picking up a transition traveling call in the first minute. Later, he completed the TyrekeBall-mandatory spin move, which led to an easy dump off to AD for the dunk. Tyreke also had a nice pocket pass for another Altron dunk, and he made a few great baseline cuts for easy layups. It’s so great that the Knicks don’t know how to play basketball.
The supporting cast shows up
The last few games, the Pelicans’ bench has been doing its job. They got it done last night as well. While the Knicks’ bench outscored the Pelicans’ 36-24, 17 of those points came from J.R. BLOOOOOOOD. The Greenhouse Deity got those 17 on 6-18 shooting, including 2-6 from three. I’ll take that. Dante Cunningham had more than 30 minutes, chipping in 7 points, 5 rebounds and some tough defense. He looks like a good fit so far. He doesn’t have three point range, but his midrange stroke gets it done, and his toughness is welcome on a bench that just has to hold it down until the starters can clean up. Also, Omer Asik came up big last night. He finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. It was good to see him look useful on offense. Too often recently, he didn’t offer enough as a roll man in the pick-and-roll game. It was like he believed that catching a basketball and successfully putting it in the bucket were mutually exclusive ideas. Hopefully his offense looks closer to last night for the rest of the year, while he continues to bring wonderful interior defense.
PELICANS AFTER 20 GAMES
The Pelicans are sitting right at 10-10 after 20 games. While it’s an improvement from last year, it’s not the pace required for this team’s goal of postseason basketball. As of now, they’re a game behind the 12-11 Suns for the eighth spot. In a surprise to nobody, the West is a giant bloodbath where your hopes and dreams get swirlies, and then the West takes pictures of those swirlies and sends it around to all your friends, especially Katie. I don’t know why you told the West you liked Katie, you knew it would just use that against you later, and now Katie got the director’s cut of those swirlie pictures and everything is terrible. Why did the West think that a panoramic picture of that swirlie was a good idea? The bathroom is such a confined space.
What I’m trying to say is the Pelicans are in a tough spot, as they’ll probably need 50 wins at least to get to the playoffs. But on the positive side, they’re at 9th in the league in offensive rating at 105.7. Unfortunately, a 105.8 defensive rating puts them at 23rd. In the West, the Pelicans are 9th in net rating at -0.2. The team can take solace that they’ve played 12 out of 20 on the road and come out at .500, but an improvement is necessary. Let’s see if the team can gel more, and hold the fort down while Eric Gordon heals up. Obviously banking on Eric Gordon’s health isn’t ideal, but this is the reality at the moment. His shooting and scoring ability are missed, and his absence overextends an already thin second unit.
WHAT’S COMING UP
Tonight the Pelicans take on the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas. The game will be on ESPN, and hopefully the Pels look better on national TV than they did against Golden State last week. The Mavs game starts a rough stretch of games for the Pelicans. In case you weren’t aware, the Mavericks are beating the dog shit out of every defense they face. Their offensive rating of 113.9 is miles beyond the rest of the league. The fifth-ranked Golden State Warriors, with a rating of 107.4, are closer to the 20th-ranked offense of the Rockets (102.2) than they are to the Mavs. So, while beating up on the Lakers and Knicks is fun, now the Pelicans will have to do some work on the defensive side. After that, the Pelicans have a three game homestand, starting with the Cavaliers and superstar Matthew Dellavedova on Friday. Then, New Orleans hosts the aforementioned Warriors on Sunday before finishing up with the Jazz on Tuesday. Jazz aside, these games will be a serious test for the Pelicans. That’s three great offenses that will put a lot of stress on the defense. If Cunningham can continue to contribute on that end and the offense can keep up its good play, the team has a chance to make a few statements.