MILWAUKEE — After a miserable first quarter Sunday, it looked as though the New Orleans Pelicans weren’t going to match their longest winning streak since 2015.
Instead, Jrue Holiday made sure the streak continued.
Holiday scored a game-high 36 points, including 28 in the second half and overtime, as the Pelicans took down the Milwaukee Bucks 123-121 in overtime at BMO Bradley Harris Center.
This was the team’s third overtime game during its five-game winning streak. The Pelicans have now won six straight overtime contests and are 7-2 in overtime this season.
“I don’t know if that’s the good news or the bad news,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry joked. “We seem to find a way to get into these overtime games. To me, the big thing is that if you look back, I think that is the fifth time that we’ve been down at least 18 and come back and won. The good news, we’ve been able to do that. The bad news is I don’t think we want to keep getting down 18.”
The Pelicans, who moved into the No. 7 seed in Western Conference playoff race, trailed by 17 points at halftime but outscored the Bucks 38-19 in the third quarter. A big reason for the turnaround: New Orleans turned over the ball just once in the third quarter after committing 11 turnovers in the opening half.
“You turn the ball over against this team, where you’ve got (Eric) Bledsoe, and you’ve got Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and (Khris) Middleton on the wing coming at you, you have no chance to defend it,” Gentry said. “I just felt like if we could ever eliminate the turnovers and just be solid in our offense and take good shots that we would have a chance to get back and set our defense. I think if we did that, we would be OK.”
The third quarter also featured a confident Holiday. He hit 6 of 11 shots from the floor en route to 15 of his 36 points.
“He kind of just took over the game, honestly,” said Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. “He made big play after big play on both ends of the floor. We were just rolling with him. I couldn’t get it going, and I just tried to do the little things, helping defensively, rebounding the basketball. But he stepped up big tonight.”
Holiday said he became more aggressive in the second half, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and getting to the basket for contested layups.
“I think I kind of forced some issues and made some shots,” Holiday said. “And kind of at that point you start feeling more comfortable and knocking down shots and from there just kept being aggressive.”
The Pelicans (33-26) trailed by 18 points, 68-50, in the opening minute of the third quarter before making their move. A 23-5 run, fueled by 11 points from Holiday, helped the Pelicans tie it at 73.
In a game that featured 15 ties and 13 lead changes, Bledsoe hit a jumper with 32.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to knot it at 114-114. Nikola Mirotic found an open 3-point look at the buzzer, but it rimmed out.
In overtime, the Pelicans were clinging to a two-point lead when they threw away an inbound pass with 10.4 seconds left. The Bucks (33-26) had a shot to tie is as Antetokounmpo pulled up for a baseline jumper with 2 seconds remaining, but it didn’t go.
The Pelicans pulled off the win in large part because of key plays down the stretch. Mirotic had one of his four block shots in overtime and Rajon Rondo banked in a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to give the Pelicans a four-point lead with 1:25 remaining.
“Playing winning basketball,” Davis said. “That’s what it takes to win. You’ve got to do the little things to win.”