Pelicans finish road trip with superlative performance against Heat

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Heading into their four game road trip, it was clear that the New Orleans Pelicans needed to split the trip to hold steady in the Western Conference playoff chase.

After losing the first two games of the road trip, that goal appeared less attainable with back-to-back games set to conclude the trip. The loss at Denver to start the trip really hurt. It is a game that the Pelicans should have won but let get away.

New Orleans got the job done, first whipping lowly injury-plagued Orlando Friday night before whipping a better Miami team Saturday night, taking down the Heat 109-94. It was not that close. The Heat made up a ton of points in garbage time with reserves on the floor late.

Playing the second of back-to-back road games, the Pelicans may have played their best overall game of the season.

Consider the defense.

New Orleans is second worst in the league in points allowed and the Pelicans yielded just 94 points to the Heat while holding Miami to just 42 percent shooting from the field.

Consider ball security.

New Orleans is third worst in the league in turnovers, averaging close to 17 per game. They limited those to 13 against the Heat.

Consider the shock troops.

New Orleans has the worst scoring bench in the NBA. On this night, the Pelicans reserves accounted for 43 points, outscoring Miami reserves 43-30.

Consider the unselfishness.

New Orleans had 27 assists in the game.

Consider the shooting.

New Orleans shot 53 percent from the field and a sizzling 60 percent (15-of-25) from 3-point range.

Consider the balance.

The Pelicans had six players in double figures and had nine players make at least one 3-pointer.

Consider taking advantage of the charity stripe.

New Orleans was 16-of-19 from the free throw line (84%).

Consider the paint.

New Orleans outscored the Heat 40-34 down low.

Of course, the Heat was playing the second of back-to-back games as well, though they were at home.

New Orleans won despite a modest night from Anthony Davis, who had 17 points and six in 32 minutes. When the Pelicans can win without its two stars playing the role of Superman, they are a better team and a dangerous team. They were better and dangerous on this night.

Miami was fixated with being physical with Demarcus Cousins and Davis. In the process, that left the open perimeter shots for many others.

Cousins played just the first 5:42 before picking up his second foul in a silly reach-around fall. His first was an offensive foul, lowering his shoulder into Kelly Olynyk.

Miami led 28-27 after one quarter, thanks to a 3-pointer by James Johnson at the buzzer.

New Orleans committed six turnovers in the opening quarter which the Heat turned into seven points. Davis had five points without a rebound in the quarter. The Pelicans trailed despite shooting 52.6 percent from the field in the period.

Cousins started the second quarter with his two fouls. He was able to avoid picking up another by halftime.

There were eight ties in the first half.

New Orleans went on an 10-0 run in the second quarter to take a 45-38 lead and never trailed again.

New Orleans led 56-53 at the half behind 13 points from E’twaun Moore. Davis did not score in the second quarter and did not have a rebound in the half. The Pelicans shot 55.6 percent from the field in the half, including 7-of-12 (58.3%) from 3-point range.

The much maligned New Orleans bench outscored the Miami bench 21-19 in the half. Goran Dragic led the Heat with nine points in the half. The Pelicans committed 10 turnovers in the half. They would commit only three the rest of the way.

The Pelicans dominated the third quarter, outscoring Miami 27-16. The Pelicans shared the ball, defended exceptionally well and got Davis involved in the quarter. Davis had nine points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in the quarter.

The Pelicans built a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter and coasted to victory, resting starters down the stretch.

Ian Clark, who has been a bit of a disappointment thus far this season, showed what the Pelicans envisioned he could do when they signed him.

Clark, who had a season-high 15 points against Sacramento on Dec. 8, eclipsed that with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range.

The real story was the play of the Pelicans bench. For the second straight game, New Orleans reserves were outstanding. The weakest part of the team this season came through in a big way.

In Orlando, the reserves outscored the Magic reserves 29-27.

If you don’t think defense matters, New Orleans is now 5-0 when holding opponents under 100 points this season. If you don’t think turnovers make a huge difference, New Orleans is now 11-4 when turning it over fewer than 15 times a game.

Miami was without star center Hassan Whiteside, who missed his tenth straight game with a knee problem. It never hurts to catch a team without perhaps its best player but that is part of the game.

The Pelicans return home to open a three-game homestand against Brooklyn next Wednesday evening. Of the three games, two are against losing teams. After the Nets, Dallas and the surprising Knicks come to town. The trio is a combined 38-60 on the season.

New Orleans has been good on the road, going 9-9 thus far. It is time for the Pelicans to get it going at home, where they are a modest 8-7 to account for a 17-16 mark, over .500 once again.

All things considered, the win in Miami was one of the best, if not the best overall performances of the year by the Pelicans. With time off, it is time for this team to build momentum and realize its full potential.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

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…

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