OKLAHOMA CITY — Eric Gordon finally has a basketball in his hands, and it’s paying off immensely for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Dealing with a plethora of injuries throughout much of his Pelicans tenure, the guard seems to be turning a corner in the month he’s been back following a shoulder injury.
His jump shot has returned. His confidence has returned. His all-around playmaking ability has returned.
And the Pelicans are entrenched in a battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference coming off a rare back-to-back series with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“When I came back from injury, I thought this would be a special way to help this team get over the hump and get there,” Gordon said. “We’re right there. We’ve just to keep on getting wins. We have a couple tough games before the All-Star break, and I think it really matters if we keep on winning games before then.”
Gordon said the key to his elevated play has simply been having the ball more, and part of that is due to point guard Jrue Holiday dealing with a stress fracture in his ankle.
When Holiday is in the lineup, Gordon is strictly a shooting guard. Otherwise, Gordon plays some point guard alongside Tyreke Evans, a solid combination that has worked well as of late.
“We are feeding off each other pretty well,” Gordon said. “It’s all about us making shots, moving the ball at all times and it gives us a chance to win. As long as we play pretty good defense, we’re a pretty good team.”
Since returning to the lineup on Jan. 5, Gordon has averaged 15.1 points and 5.3 assists per game entering Friday’s contest.
He’s had five or more assists in each game dating back to Jan. 18, including a 10-assist performance against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“In our offense, the point guard has an easier way and route to get it to other guys when they’re open,” Gordon said. “You see a little more when you’re a point guard. I’m trying to make the easiest pass.”
He even exploded for 28 points and seven assists in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers without star Anthony Davis on Jan. 30. His only struggle came in Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma City in which he scored just seven points and had seven assists.
“He’s just been fresh,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “He’s got a quick burst and he’s been exploding to the basket, finishing with his left hand.
“He’s really done a good job for us. On nights where he shoots the ball well and attacks the basket, we typically have a good chance to win.”
Winning has been a little more common for the Pelicans of late, too.
They’ve won six of their last eight entering Friday’s game with the Thunder, including wins over the Dallas Mavericks, Clippers and the red-hot Atlanta Hawks, who had a 19-game winning streak snapped by the Pelicans. All of this has New Orleans on the tail of the Phoenix Suns for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Perhaps some of the credit should be given to Gordon’s long-awaited emergence.
“He’s good with the ball in his hands,” Evans said. “When he’s like that with the ball, it makes him even more unstoppable.”