this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; The New Orleans Pelicans have had some trouble navigating the ebbs and flows of a rocky regular season, but the past few weeks have provided hope that their explosive potential can be reached sooner rather than later. Following Friday night's ...
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|01-10-2015, 05:30 AM||#1|
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New Orleans Pelicans Grab Another Signature Win with Critical Stretch Coming Up
The New Orleans Pelicans have had some trouble navigating the ebbs and flows of a rocky regular season, but the past few weeks have provided hope that their explosive potential can be reached sooner rather than later.
Following Friday night's 106-95 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Pelicans (18-18) are now 14-11 against Western Conference opponents and sit just 2.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Phoenix Suns. New Orleans is also 5-4 against Southwest Division foes, topping last season's divisional win total in 36 appearances, according to Pelicans radio producer Daniel Sallerson:
In a triumphant effort, four Pelicans finished with at least 20 points as Jrue Holiday led the way behind game-high tallies of 23 points (7-of-13 shooting) and eight assists. Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson added 20 points apiece, but it was the contributions of sixth man Tyreke Evans that may represent a turning point for New Orleans moving forward.
Totaling 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists coming off the bench for just the second time this season, Evans reiterated that he'd be willing to sacrifice the starting label in the name of continuity, according to The Times-Picayune's Nakia Hogan:
"We had a talk, me and Coach (Williams), Jrue (Holiday) and Eric (Gordon) about just trying to switch it up," Evans said following the win, per NBA.com's Jim Eichenhofer. "Coach said he thought I’d be better off the bench, knowing what I could do with the ball. I agreed to it, if that’s going to make us balance out better. I’m a team-first type of guy. I just want us to win and be playing well."
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Evans became the first player this season to go for at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists off the bench. Only two players (Andry Blatche and Draymond Green) accomplished the feat last season.
Thanks in part to Evans, the Pelicans have ripped off impressive wins against stout Western Conference competition over the past few weeks.
Here's a look at notable opponents New Orleans has dispatched since Dec. 21:
With a progressively improving resume, the Pelicans are firmly in the playoff hunt. In order to solidify their status as dark horses, though, New Orleans will need to first take care of pressing business against lesser opponents.
Set to embark on a five-game road trip that begins Monday against the Boston Celtics, New Orleans is prepping to square off against seven sub-.500 opponents over its next nine games in total. That stretch includes showdowns against the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers (twice), Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves. The lone exceptions come on Jan. 18 against the Toronto Raptors and Jan. 25 versus the Dallas Mavericks.
A slate of contests against some of the league's most inept teams couldn't be coming at a better time, either.
The Suns, who occupy the West's No. 8 seed, are about to enter a brutal stretch that includes matchups with the Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers, among others. In fact, six of the Suns' next nine games come against teams with winning percentages better than .600.
Phoenix's gaudy itinerary aside, the Pelicans can only control that which lies ahead of them.
In order to avoid short-term disappointments that could blossom into a full-blown meltdown, New Orleans needs to clean up against a powder puff schedule. Facing off against the league's four worst teams five times over the next two weeks, there's an undeniable opening for Monty Williams' crew to slink into a qualifying postseason position.
However, New Orleans will need its group of eclectic stars to continue building a strong rapport as it preps for life smack in the middle of a heated postseason chase.
Case in point: In the 96 minutes Evans, Holiday, Davis, Anderson and Eric Gordon have shared the floor, New Orleans is generating a colossal 119.5 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. The downside: That five-man unit also surrenders 116.8 points per 100 possessions with very little in the way of rim protection outside of the rangy Davis.
But if you swap Anderson out for paint comptroller Omer Asik, the team's defensive rating improves drastically to a mark of 97.8 while its offensive rating dips to a very respectable 110.5.
Among all lineups that have played at least 150 minutes so far this season, that versatile five-man crew from New Orleans ranks No. 8 overall in net rating (plus-12.7 points per 100 possessions), according to NBA.com.
Williams' lineup permutations are still in flux—as Friday's contest exemplified—but with Evans taking the high road for the sake of continuity, there exists some real potential for rapid growth if the following fortnight goes according to plan.
It's going to take plenty of discipline from one of the league's youngest and most perplexing clubs to truly break through, but a productive leap can be made after New Orleans passed its most recent test with room for improvement.
All statistics current as of Jan. 10 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless noted otherwise.
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