Pelicans continue to impress with easy win over Nets
We may be witnessing the arrival of the promise of the 2017-18 New Orleans Pelicans we were promised before the season started.
The team is playing at its highest level yet. That is obvious.
The latest example was a 128-113 victory over Brooklyn Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center in a game that was never close.
The Pelicans did everything well. The team shot the lights out, making 17-of-33 shots from 3-point range (51.5 percent). They had 40 assists on 48 field goals. New Orleans limited its turnovers to 10. For the most part, the team defended well.
The Pelicans put the game away early, leading 31-23 after one quarter and 69-46 at halftime. New Orleans shot 11-of-18 (59 percent) from 3-point range in the first half with six players sinking shots from beyond the arc.
Anthony Davis was 3-for-3 from three-point range and had 20 points in the half while Demarcus Cousins had 15 points. Rajon Rondo did not score but dished out 11 assists in the half. Another significant encouragement was that New Orleans had just four turnovers in the half.
Davis was brilliant yet again, scoring 33 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking six shots. Cousins was equally brilliant with 27 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Jrue Holiday had 23 points and E’Twaun Moore finished with 20 points.
Equally as encouraging is that Davis and Cousins played just 32 minutes. Self-preservation is important over the long haul.
The way this team is sharing the ball is a pleasure to watch. It makes the Pelicans a better team. If you are open, Rondo is going to find you.
Rondo broke a franchise record and set a new career best with 25 assists, breaking his previous record of 24 set with Boston in 2010. Rondo accomplished the feat in just 30 minutes, the fewest ever in league history for that many assists. Rondo also became the oldest player (31) to reach 25 assists in a game.
Rondo credited the team’s defense with setting up his assist opportunities, as well as his teammates simply making shots.
Rondo’s assist total was not only an NBA season high and a fracnshise record, but the most in the NBA in two decades.
Rondo had the previous NBA season high of 18, set on Dec. 10 against Philadelphia. The previous New Orleans franchise record was 21, set by Chris Paul in the memorable 2007-08 season, the only season in which a New Orleans NBA franchise, including the Jazz, Hornets and Pelicans, won a playoff series.
The last time anyone had 25 assists in an NBA game was Jason Kidd, back in the 1995-96 season, when he was a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
The way this team is shooting three-pointers is truly impressive.
For that matter, the Pelicans have defended better in the midst of this three-game win streak.
Seeing Solomon Hill on the bench was another encouraging sign. Perhaps he can become part of the rotation after the All-Star break.
As I have stated since before the start of the season, the Pelicans will make the playoffs this season.
The key is to work hard to get to the fifth spot, if not the fourth spot.
There are three teams superior to the Pelicans in the west and they are Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.
While Minnesota is a solid young team and well coached, they are not a particularly good shooting team and they are still young. While Portland has good guards, they are beatable. While Denver has a solid baseline and a solid nucleus, it is a team New Orleans can compete with. Oklahoma City is putting it together but the Thunder are not invincible, by any means.
Utah has been without Rudy Gobert for a period time and is not as good without Gordon Hayward.
The opportunity is certainly there for New Orleans to win 45 or more games and get a first-round matchup against a team it can beat.
Time will tell if it will happen.
New Orleans matched its season high with its three-game win streak, improving to 18-16. The Pelicans will be a solid favorite when it goes for a fourth straight against a lowly Dallas squad at Smoothie King Center. Despite a win Indiana Wednesday night, the Mavs are just 12-25 on the season.
To be a good team, you must beat the teams you are supposed to beat. New Orleans is doing that in solid fashion.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…