Just like the New Orleans Pelicans: Reserve guard Norris Cole on Saturday night found a way to bounce back.
Cole recovered from a two-game shooting lapse by scoring 12 points during a 95-89 win against Memphis at the Smoothie King Center, using his perimeter touch to keep the Pelicans ahead after a third-quarter rally.
And a solid defensive play in the game’s final seconds.
It’s the kind of play at point guard the Pelicans need with starter Jrue Holiday sidelined and the Pelicans pushing for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“I think we just came out with a more intense, focused attitude,” said Cole, whom the Pelicans traded for Feb. 19. “We paid attention to detail; we played for each other. It was a growth moment for us.”
Cole, now in his fourth NBA season, has experienced his share of growth as a part of two championships in Miami, his NBA home for the previous three and a half seasons. Now he’s helping the Pelicans develop.
Cole’s offense during a key stretch — he scored seven in the fourth quarter — allowed him to move past combined 4-for-14 shooting during the previous two games against Detroit and Boston.
His 3-pointer with 6:14 left pushed the Pelicans to an 82-78 lead. Two minutes later, he collected a steal, finishing the Pelicans’ possession with a pull-up jumper from about 17 feet. On the Pelicans’ next possession, he added a runner in the lane.
“We understood that we had dug ourselves into a hole,” Cole said. “But we didn’t try to make any ‘hero’ plays. We took it one possession at a time, defended well, got the rebounds and executed offensively. When we made substitutions, guys were able to sustain that effort and we kept coming in waves.”
The Pelicans sealed the win on defense, with Cole in the middle of the heroics, defending Memphis guard Mike Conley on a 3-point attempt near the top of the key. Careful not to foul, Cole, now in his fourth NBA season, made sure Conley didn’t release a solid shot; the air ball sailed out of bounds.
“Last night, he struggled in the first half,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “He was going to the basket, he had a big 3, really helped us. Defensively, he’s always pretty solid.”
The good news is that Williams said he wasn’t concerned with Cole’s offense, knowing he would bounce back. Apparently, Cole did too.