NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The Atlanta Hawks came into the Smoothie King Center on Monday with a league-high 19 game winning streak, the 5th longest in NBA history. Not only that, but they also held the best record in the NBA at 40-8. The Pelicans were an underdog team facing off against the number one seeded team in the Eastern Conference, but that didn't intimidate them and it definitely didn't stop them from playing a great game of basketball. The Pelicans dominated from start to finish, beating the Hawks by a final score of 115-110.
The Atlanta Hawks month long winning streak was led by true team basketball, as well as the scoring and rebounding ability of All-Star big men Paul Millsap and Al Horford. However on Monday this wasn't the case. Against top tier defenders Omer Asik and Anthony Davis, Millsap and Horford combined for only 23 points. Atlanta struggled to score early and got in a quick ten-point deficit which later proved to be insurmountable. The Pelicans led throughout the whole game, as Atlanta’s shots weren't falling and the Pelicans took advantage. Offensively the Pelicans couldn't have played much better. Atlanta came into the game as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and allowing only 95 points per game, only to have the Pelicans score 115 in a dominating performance.
Early on the Pelicans started out hot, grabbing a quick 10 point lead in the first quarter as guard Eric Gordon kept his hot streak going, nailing two triples and leading all scorers with 8 first quarter points. With Pelicans All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday still out with a stress reaction in his right leg, Tyreke Evans picked up the distribution duties and led the Pelicans with a game-high 12 assists. Evans added 15 points of his own, including a highflying 3-pointer that banked in toward the middle of the 3rd. It was just that kind of night for the Pelicans as everything seemed to be going in. The team shot 50% for the game and made 9 three-pointers.
After a one-game absence due to a groin injury, Anthony Davis looked as if he hadn't missed a second. Davis scored 29 points on 52% shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds and added two blocks in 33 minutes of play. Maybe most importantly for the Pelicans, guard Eric Gordon had his second straight great performance. Gordon had a 20 point outing and added 7 assists. He did so efficiently, shooting 7 for 11 from the field and made four of his six three-point attempts. If Gordon can keep up this kind of production, the Pelicans will be a tough team to beat.
In an all around great team victory, everyone who played for the Pelicans contributed. Ryan Anderson contributed with 15 points off the bench as usual, and even Jimmer Fredette got things going scoring 10 points in his escalated minutes with Jrue Holiday absent from the lineup. Forward Dante Cunningham proved to be important, scoring all of his 10 points in a timely manner when things got tight in the third quarter.
The Pelicans have now won six of their last seven games, and look ahead to see the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant on their schedule in back-to-back games on both Wednesday and Friday in what could be two huge playoff changing games. After Phoenix’s loss to the Grizzlies, the Pelicans find themselves only one game out of the playoffs, but only two games above Oklahoma City. These next two games will be crucial for the team if the Pelicans want to keep their playoff hopes alive.