New Orleans Pelicans: Analyzing their win over the Cavs

On Saturday night, the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the reigning Eastern Conference champions. The real question is, can they maintain the two-game win streak moving forward?

The New Orleans Pelicans surprised the NBA landscape by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday, 123-101. The surprise return of Anthony Davis being inserted into the starting lineup from injury might have given the Pelicans the advantage before tip-off.

The surprising nugget from this game was how well the starting unit played against the reigning Eastern Conference champions. Scoring 114 points with four starters scoring over 20 points will guarantee any team a win in the NBA.

But having the starters produce that much to secure a win isn’t something that can be sustainable for the long run. The Pelicans bench only produced nine points, which is a head-scratcher to say the least.

It seemed like for most of the game, Alvin Gentry was contempt to just have his starting unit keep grinding away the Cavaliers defense. It was sound strategy for this specific game, but Gentry should be wary moving forward of asking his starters to carry that much of the burden.

The New Orleans Pelicans have the second-lowest scoring bench in the league, averaging 24 points per game. Other teams in the league will exploit that weakness if the Pelicans get into foul trouble or play at the end of a back-to-back game.

Inside presence

The one amazing positive to take note of for this specific game was the points in the paint (68 points) for the New Orleans Pelicans. From the jump of this game, both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins made a conscious effort to attack the basket and force the Cavs defense to collapse on them.

It allowed E’Twaun Moore and Jrue Holiday to cut to the basket for easy points or drain open 3-point shots. The Cavaliers had absolutely no idea how to contain this interior onslaught, especially since they were expecting to have the Pelicans settle for jump shots.

The New Orleans Pelicans have the blueprint to win a lot of game with this simple formula of attacking the basket, passing the ball and shooting the 3-ball. The problem is they are usually inconsistent on how they approach every game with those three simple strategies.

They did an excellent job in sharing the ball (33 assists), which allowed their starting unit to maintain its offensive rhythm for the majority of the game. Both Cousins and Davis played a direct result in allowing their teammates to get involved in the action. The Pelicans will need to play that way if they plan to beat elite teams moving forward.

What to look forward to

Even defensively, the Pelicans have the ability to force 3-point shooting teams like the Cavs to take tough shots. The Cavs did make their 3-pointers (37.5 percent), but most of the them were either tough shots or desperation attempts. Their rim protection was in full force, even though they only had four blocks, the Pelicans made sure for most of the game that the Cavs couldn’t make those easy baskets.

The New Orleans Pelicans will face one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the Orlando Magic, next. Both Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier have been fantastic so far this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Pelicans match up with them.

Both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will have great outings, but will the rest of the team show up?