SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Quincy Pondexter is playing the best basketball of his NBA career.
His production has spiked since he was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the New Orleans Pelicans in January, and he has hit a number of milestones in the process.
On Feb. 25, Pondexter posted career highs in minutes (40) and points (25) against the Brooklyn Nets. Before Saturday night’s 99-90 loss at Portland, he was averaging 9.0 points and 27.7 minutes since joining the Pelicans.
That’s nearly three points higher and seven more minutes than his best season with the Grizzlies.
Pondexter has had his best rebounding outputs while wearing a Pelicans uniform, and on Friday night in a 101-95 victory against the Sacramento Kings, he hit six 3-pointers — also the most in his NBA career.
“My teammates are finding me, and I have coaches that believe in me,” Pondexter said. “It just makes it that much easier when you’ve got guys finding you. I’m playing with confidence and thank God for the opportunity.”
In the first quarter alone, he was 4-of-5 from behind the arc, hitting all of them exclusively from the left corner. Pondexter sank 6 of 9 attempts Friday and finished with 18 points. It was his seventh straight game reaching double figures and his ninth out of the previous 11.
Pondexter’s hot shooting was contagious, and guard Eric Gordon started lighting it up from downtown as well. He went 4-of-8 from 3-point territory — part of a 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) effort by the squad.
“Quincy and Eric were knocking down shots,” coach Monty Williams said. “That gave us a bit of a buffer. Those 3s early opened it up for us, and I think that allowed us to get to the basket later. Anytime Quincy and Eric are hitting shots, it makes us a good team.”
Pondexter, a fourth-year guard out of Washington, put the exclamation point on the first half, burying a 3-pointer from nearly halfcourt at the buzzer that put New Orleans ahead by 14.
“He shot lights out,” guard Norris Cole said. “He puts in a lot of work on his shot, so when he’s open and got his feet down, we pretty much think it’s going to go in.”
Whether it was a shot in transition or an open look achieved by forcing the Kings defense to collapse, Pondexter took advantage.
“I think a lot of teams are just trying to take (star forward Anthony Davis) out, and it opens up Quincy for shot,” Williams said. “I thought early, a lot of his 3s came out of transition. We were getting stops and running the ball, and he was great tonight. He was in the corner just knocking down shots.”
His passing proficiency also was on display. Midway through the third quarter, an outlet pass from center Omer Asik to Pondexter preceded a behind-the-back toss to Davis, who flushed it with a one-handed tomahawk slam. That play gave the Pelicans their largest lead of the night at 18 points.
“He’s a good passer. He can read defenses well,” Davis said. “I actually thought he was going to throw it up, so he kind of threw me off a bit when he threw it behind his back.”
Thanks to Pondexter’s proficiency, the Pelicans now sit at No. 4 in the NBA in 3-point shooting, trailing only Golden State, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Now a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, that efficiency could propel the Pelicans into the postseason.
For now, Pondexter shrugs off any individual accomplishments as long as his team comes out on top.
“We got the win. That’s all I care about,” he said. “We made a few 3s, but it’s no big deal. It’s all about getting the ‘W’ at the end of the day. Guys found me, and I made a few of ’em.”