Well, THAT was a load of fun. The Pelicans defeated the Raptors 100-97 Monday night in the Smoothie King Center. It wraps up a New Orleans series sweep of the Raptors, after the Pelicans scored a thrilling, 95-93 win in Toronto earlier this year. The win is the Pelicans’ second in a row following a four-game skid. The Pelicans are now 29-27 and two games behind the Thunder for the final playoff spot in the West with 26 games to go.
Let’s avoid the future for now and look back at this game. The Pelicans were severely undermanned going into this, with both Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson picking up injuries against the Heat. They joined Jrue Holiday on the sidelines, leaving the Pelicans without three of their top six players, including their top two. How did they come away with a victory while missing such key pieces? Well, the bench mob came to New Orleans…and they were steady mobbin.
Peep this shit: the Pelicans’ starters scored 45 points, while the backups dominated with 55. The Raptors’ bench, in comparison, dropped 21. The bench mob shot 24-35 from the field for their 55, with Jimmer’s two free throws in the final minute being the only bench points from the charity stripe. Due to the limited roster Monty had to work with, the Pelicans went with consisent offensive and defensive subs in crunch time. However, three guys who didn’t start the game (Norris Cole, Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca) were heavily relied upon to close it out.
Let’s look at each member of the bench’s big night individually.
With both AD and Anderson out, the Pelicans needed Ajinca to provide major frontcourt minutes, and he more than delivered. Ajinca finished with 16 points on 8-12 shooting and 9 rebounds, and he scored the go-ahead basket off a great assist by Tyreke. Alexis also accrued 5 fouls because Ajinca gonna Ajinca, and he committed 5 turnovers, including a few where he just gave the ball straight back to the Raptors after securing a rebound. However, Ajinca was a clear boost for a Pelicans team short on bigs. He continued his fine form against the Toronto, as he scored a career-high 22 points against them in this year’s first matchup.
Luke Babbitt stepped into a team sorely missing Ryan Anderson…and gave them a pretty damn good Ryan Anderson game. Babbitt finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 4-5 from behind the arc. Luke and his luscious locks made two back-to-back threes late in the game to turn a 93-88 deficit into a 94-93 lead. Babbitt also showed a bit more to his game than we’re used to, as he took a few guys to the rim and cashed in on some closer looks. (Babbitt then airballed a pull-up 16-footer but his hair’s beautiful and he scored 10 in the fourth quarter so idc idc idc)
Oh, man. It’s only been two games, but my friends and I wanna cuff Norris up forever. We’re all racing to see who can get a flat top haircut first. Cole finished with 15 points on 7-11 shooting to go along with 6 assists in 25 minutes. Norris played all of the fourth quarter and either scored or assisted on the Pelicans’ first 12 points in the final frame. In that final frame, Cole shot 6-7 for 13 points and dished out two assists. This was in the third quarter, but just look at this shit. That’s just a lovely pocket pass for an easy bucket. Cole is a high-IQ, skilled, tough guard that has been a great addition so far. We’ll expand on him in another post.
Jimmer only played six seconds, but hoo boy did he come up clutch. My man got in the game for the sole purpose of nailing free throws, got fouled and DID. THE. FUCK. ING. THANG. Jimmer stepped up to the line to extend the Pelicans’ lead to three with four seconds to go. But that wasn’t the most important thing here. While situational basketball is awesome, Jimmer’s second ice-cold free throw put the Pelicans at 100 points, which means…#PAPASFRITAS. That’s right, this free-throw swishing death machine led New Orleans to free fries at Buffalo Wild Wings, so long as you have a ticket stub from the Raptors game. What an angel you are, Jimmer. You are perfect, Jimbo.
I may have celebrated this win by eating Domino’s twice yesterday. Today they play the Nets in another winnable game. We can’t expect the bench mob to go hammertime like this every game, but they won’t have to if the starters can turn in a better performance, which they are more than capable of doing. For now, the team has to hold down the fort until Altron comes back, then hope for as quick a recovery as possible for Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. Also it would be nice if Russell Westbrook would stop going Super Saiyan 19 on everybody so the Thunder could lose once in a while.