Pelicans outlast Bucks in overtime for fifth straight win

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It is time to take the New Orleans Pelicans seriously.

A gritty bunch of guys wearing navy blue uniforms once again showed that they are a force to be reckoned with a gutsy 123-121 overtime win at Milwaukee against a solid Bucks team.

New Orleans had to sweat out a potential game-winning 3-pointer by Jason Terry off of an offensive rebound. Fortunately, Terry’s shot had clearly not left his hands before the buzzer sounded and light came on. The initial call was correct and was upheld by replay.

It was the ninth overtime game of the season for New Orleans (7-2). It was the sixth consecutive overtime win for the Pelicans. One can only hope that the extra minutes to not wear this team down as we go down the stretch of the regular season.

The Pelicans dug a deep hole, trailing by 18 points in the first half. Turnovers were a huge issue and defense was simply not good enough. Both would improve significantly in the second half as New Orleans maintained its poise while ramping up its intensity in dramatic fashion. It was the fifth time this year that the Pelicans have rallied from at least 18 points down to win.

Down the stretch of this one, Milwaukee made a conscious effort to deny Anthony Davis the ball. He was defended tightly way out on the floor and doubled any time he got within 18 feet of the basket. Davis did not get a shot off from the field. Davis still finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds in 43 minutes. Davis scored on a dunk with 5:35 left in the game. He would not score again and the Pelicans still won. That should tell you something about this team.

In his absence, Jrue Holiday took over, scoring 36 points, pulling down nine rebounds and dishing out six assists in 41 minutes. Nikola Mirotic had 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots as he was a force defensively on an afternoon where he was just 1-for-8 from 3-point range.

Veteran Rajon Rondo was good throughout, scoring 16 points with 12 assists. He was 7-for-11 from the field, including a fortunate 3-point shot that he banked in the basket in overtime.

Rondo did have a critical mistake, turning it over with 10.4 seconds left and a two-point lead on a poor in-bound pass intended for Anthony Davis. It was his sixth turnover of the game.

New Orleans has won five straight games for the first time in three years, since March 1, 2015.

New Orleans turned the tables on Giannis Antetokuonmpo, who was just 1-of-8 from the field in the second half as the Pelicans doubled him any time he tried to drive or got the ball down low. The Greek Freak had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds but was just 6-of-18 from the field.

New Orleans is now 33-26, now seventh in the Western Conference, percentage points ahead of the Thunder for that spot. The Pelicans are now 17-14 on the road, the sign of a good team.

In a brutal scheduling quirk, the Pelicans are home Monday night against Phoenix. Will they have anything left in the tank? Fortunately, the Suns are a bad team, the kind of team you must beat at home, even on short rest. Phoenix is 18-43 and the Suns have lost nine straight games.

Perhaps the Pelicans will have to dig deeper into their bench Monday night. The way things are going, you have a good feeling about it working out.

The Pelicans are clearly over the loss of Demarcus Cousins. They have found an identity and it is a good one. They are winning close games against solid teams. They are overcoming large deficits frequently to win. They are scoring at a dizzying pace, averaging 128.4 points per game in the win streak, without Cousins. They look like an above average NBA team.

New Orleans won 34 games last season. The next win will tie that mark. The improvement is obvious. The style is entertaining. The results are enjoyable. The players are efficient. The effort is excellent.

Such is the plight, the current state of the 2017-18 New Orleans Pelicans. Let’s hope it remains that way.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE 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 Sports Media Association, National Football…

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