Anthony Davis beasts against sloppy Warriors, Pelicans win Game 3 in rout

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That looked like the Pelicans who swept the Trail Blazers out of the playoffs.

From the opening tip back in the comfort of their home, New Orleans was knocking down threes, being far more physical and aggressive on defense, and consistently exploiting a Warriors team that was sloppy with their defensive switches and communication.

The result was a wrap-the-ice-on-your-knees-with-five-minutes-left kind of blowout win.

Anthony Davis was a second-half beast and finished with 33 points and 18 rebounds, Jrue Holiday had 21 points, and Rajon Rondo added a ridiculous 21 assists. With that, the Pelicans blew Golden State away in the second half, winning 119-100.

Golden State still leads the series 2-1, but New Orleans has a chance to even it up Sunday in the Big Easy.

“We’re home, we believe we’re a great home team no matter who we’re playing, our fans were unbelievable tonight, and guys made shots. That was the difference maker,” Davis said. “

If Golden State plays the same way, New Orleans will even the series.

This looked more like the regular-season Warriors that tried to get by on talent and were not dialed in. It’s not just that their shooters were off, although they were. Stephen Curry was 6-of-19 and struggled to create space for himself all game, plus he was attacked on defense, that knee is not as healthy as everyone thought. The Pelicans cranked up their defensive pressure and the result was this shot chart by the Warriors, where they barely got to the rim — they had six more midrangers than shots within three feet — and missed their jumpers.

Even more than the offensive and lineup questions, it was the defensive end where the Warriors’ issues were most obvious. The Warriors defensive attention to detail — staying with Mirotic when he pops out after setting a pick, or being prepared for duck-ins from Davis — that has mostly shown up in the playoffs was lacking on Friday night.

New Orleans is simply too good a team to do that against.

The Pelicans opened the game red-hot — after shooting 33.9 percent from three in the first two games, they opened this one up 6-of-9 from deep and raced out to a 13 point lead. Holiday was fueling that run with a couple of threes (meanwhile the Warriors opened 1-of-7 from beyond the arc). The Pelicans did a good job of giving whoever Curry was guarding the ball then using Davis to set picks, so there could be no switch. It led to some good looks for New Orleans and they were 10-of-16 from three in the first half. However, the Pelicans were getting good buckets inside as well, attacking off the sleepy Warriors switches.

All of which is why it felt like the Pelicans should have been up by more than six at the half. Part of the reason was Klay Thompson, who had been getting good looks for a couple of games but not shooting like he’s expected to, finding his groove and scoring 20 in the second quarter.

In the second half, Davis took over and the Pelicans raced out to a 21-7 run at the start and never looked back.

“Just being more aggressive,” Davis said of his second-half explosion. “Rondo’s been on me all series about just being more physical, more aggressive, going to the basket, and that’s on me. We have to be physical and match that physicality.”

It wasn’t just Davis in the second half, it was the Ian Clark revenge game — the former Warriors dropped 18 off the bench on his one-time teammates.

The tenor of Game 3 was radically different from the first two games of the series. The Pelicans believe they can continue that, but we have all seen the Warriors flip the switch and win big games on the road. They will play better.

Which is going to make Sunday very interesting.

Pelicans sign Jordan Crawford for playoff push

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans have brought back guard Jordan Crawford as the club tries to hang on to one of the final playoffs spots in the Western Conference.

The Pelicans announced the move on Thursday, but terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Ian Clark is out with an ankle injury.

The 6-foot-4 Crawford has played in 21 games for the Pelicans during parts of the past two seasons and has been a productive scorer in those outings, averaging 13.6 points.

Crawford played in only two games early this season with New Orleans, averaging 9.0 points before being waived on October 21.

Crawford has been in the NBA since 2010, also playing for with Atlanta, Washington, Boston and Golden State.

He is expected to be available to play in New Orleans’ next game Friday at Phoenix.

 

Jrue Holiday hits game winner, Anthony Davis has 45, Pelicans beat Heat in OT, 124-123

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis had 45 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Miami Heat 124-123 in overtime Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Goran Dragic scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade hit two runners to give the Heat the lead twice in the last 36 seconds of overtime, but Davis responded to the first with a layup as he was fouled, and Jrue Holiday answered the second with a runner in the lane with 7 seconds left.

Wade had one last shot for the win with Holiday defending him closely. It bounced off the rim to Josh Richardson, whose rushed put-back missed the basket as time expired in Miami’s third straight loss.

Davis, who has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game during New Orleans’ winning streak – and 42 or more three times – raised both arms in triumph as he looked up at the jubilant crowd, and then exchanged high fives with fans along the court.

Holiday finished with 29 points and nine assists, connecting with Davis on a couple of alley-oop dunks. Ian Clark scored a season-high 21 points and Nikola Mirotic capped his 10-point, nine-rebound performance with a crucial 3 in overtime.

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go. Wade had 16 points, while Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 15 points.

Neither team was able to build a double-digit lead during game which riveted a boisterous crowd with its fast pace and array of highlights on both ends of the floor. There were 13 ties and nine lead changes.

New Orleans scored 37 fast-break points. Davis threw down seven dunks. He converted one alley-oop while being fouled and also turned a steal into a fast-break layup as he was fouled. And the All-Star wasn’t the only one blocking shots for New Orleans. Emeka Okafor, now in his second 10-day contract after being out of the league for four-plus seasons, had five blocks.

After trailing much of the second half, the Pelicans appeared to be seizing control with a 10-0 run during which Holiday scored eight points, giving New Orleans a 104-99 lead with 2:51 to go.

But the Heat rallied to tie it at 106 on Wade’s free throws.

Davis hit a jumper with 23 seconds left and Wade missed on the other end, but a rebound contested by several players fell to Dragic in the paint, and he hit an uncontested layup to tie it again.

The Pelicans had 14 seconds to set up a winning shot, but Davis’ drive was cut off along the baseline and his awkward layup attempted missed and the game went to overtime after Miami was unable to get a shot from an inbounds play with .8 seconds left.

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Pelicans trying to keep up with all the problems they’ve created for themselves

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The entire operation could have cratered if Jrue Holiday left in free agency, as the Pelicans would have had only moderate cap space to replace him.

That didn’t happen.

Otherwise…

Years of roster mismanagement caught up to New Orleans, which had its meager wing depth eviscerated when Solomon Hill suffered a long-term injury. Complicating matters, the Pelicans had already hard-capped themselves by signing Rajon Rondo and Darius Miller to a combined salary above the taxpayer mid-level exception. Holiday used his leverage to get a massive contract – worth up to $150 million over five years – that pushed New Orleans close to that hard cap.

Rondo might be a decent value as a $3.3 million backup point guard. But his ego complicates the situation, and the Pelicans will start him at point guard – pushing Holiday to shooting guard, where the team’s third-best player will make less of an impact.

Miller washed out of the NBA two years ago after three seasons in New Orleans. The former second-rounder went overseas and then drew a salary above the minimum. I’m curious to see what the Pelicans see in him now.

In a pinch on the wing – where Hill, best at power forward, was already playing out of position – New Orleans sent a second-rounder and cash to the Bulls to dump Quincy Pondexter. Presumably, the injury problems that have kept Pondexter from playing the last two seasons meant he couldn’t help the Pelicans on the wing this season. Otherwise, this deal was a farce. But it allowed the Pelicans to sign Tony Allen and presumably one other player. Re-signing Dante Cunningham would help, but even he is better at power forward than small forward.

Allen is still a strong defender at age 35, but he’s a poor shooter. Rondo generally has been, too.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will have to be comfortable from deep for this team to have adequate spacing. The situation behind those two stars is woeful.

New Orleans spent a lot of time picking around the edges at point guard, though. In addition to re-signing Holiday and signing Rondo, the Pelicans traded effective backup point guard Tim Frazier (on a reasonable $2 million salary) to the Wizards for the No. 52 pick. Then, New Orleans essentially dealt the Nos. 40 and 52 picks and $800,000 to move up to No. 31 for injured point guard Frank Jackson, who’s already hurt again. The Pelicans also signed Ian Clark (defends point guards, handles the ball and distributes like a shooting guard). Combo guard E'Twaun Moore returns, too.

Between Davis, Cousins, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, New Orleans is paying $57,396,659 this season to players most effective at center.

Meanwhile, small forward is a wasteland.

This is not the team I’d want to send into battle during Cousins’ contract year. Lose him, and how will that color Davis’ long-term view of the franchise?

The Pelicans keep bandaging major wounds, and it’s already catching up to them. The difficult situation entering the offseason must be taken into account.

They started the summer in a jam. Then, they got jammed.

Offseason grade: C-