It isn’t a streak. But it’s definitely something.
After months of uneven performances, causing a prolonged battle with the .500 mark, the New Orleans Pelicans have finally discovered a winning patch.
On Monday night, the Pelicans — and forward DeMarcus Cousins — did it in astonishing fashion.
Their thrilling 132-128 double-overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls in the Smoothie King Center might have cemented the notion this team is for real.
Cousins tallied 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists, the NBA’s first 40-20-10 game since Wilt Chamberlain nearly 50 years ago.
"Legendary," said Anthony Davis, who scored 34 points of his own but fouled out in the first overtime.
It was the Pelicans’ fifth win in their past six games, their best six-game mark at any point this season. And it’s the kind of stretch New Orleans has longed for since tipping off in mid-October.
Arguably more important, the Pelicans have reeled off four consecutive home wins, dragging out of the .500 morass inside the Smoothie King Center as well.
This one shook the building.
A stirring and remarkable 18-point fourth quarter comeback unleashed a torrent of noise and a wave of enthusiasm on the Pelicans’ bench, particularly when Jrue Holiday buried a 3-pointer to tie it late in the fourth, before he found Anthony Davis for a go-ahead alley-oop.
“A lot of energy,” Davis said. “The crowd. The bench. Every time we scored, we just looked. I just wanted to cut it to 10 in the final four minutes and we got stops and scored, and next thing you know I’m at the free-throw line trying to win the game.”
But, just as this season has gone, nothing would come simply.
Darius Miller fouled Justin Holiday on a 3-point attempt with 0.3 seconds remaining, allowing Jrue’s older brother to send the game to overtime, by making two free throws. However, his miss on the third attempt left the door open for the Pelicans to finish the job in overtime.
One extra session wouldn’t be enough.
Ian Clark missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the first overtime.
Finally in the second overtime, Cousins, in his 51st minute, made a pair of free throws to secure the victory.
It elicited a bearhug from Davis, who had fouled out earlier, and sent the Pelicans into a state of delirium.
“We are genuinely happy for one another’s success,” Cousins said. “That’s what it’s all about. That type of energy is going to carry us through the remainder of the season.”
The game was tied 81 after three quarters but became an apparent Bulls runaway at 104-86 midway through the quarter.
Then, something lit a spark.
The finishing lineup of Davis, Cousins, Holiday, Miller and E’Twaun Moore scratched, clawed, defended, swatted, stole and shot its way into a game that appeared to have left them for dead.
“We didn’t flip a switch,” Davis said. “We are not good enough for a switch, but we just decided to play defense. It was tied up going into the fourth, and they went on a crazy run and with about eight minutes left we said we were going to play defense. We did it one possession at a time, and we were able to come back.”
And when Davis fouled out with more than two minutes remaining in overtime, once again, New Orleans appeared to be on the ropes. But Cousins rose to the occasion, scoring 11 of his points in the extra 10 minutes.
“This team has a lot of fight,” Cousins said. “I’m (upset) we even put ourselves in this position, but a win is a win.”
Once again, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was left with a question mark at point guard entering the fourth quarter.
Over the past month, he’s been unable to settle on a finishing lineup, picking between either Rajon Rondo or Ian Clark or shifting Holiday into a more of an on-ball role.
Gentry said it’s not something dictated by pregame matchups or a rotating schedule. Instead, he bases it on feel.
The feeling left behind by this fourth quarter lineup may last for a long time. A stunning reversal put the Pelicans into their best position of the season and sets the franchise up for its first playoff run since 2015.
All when they appeared to be on the brink of another disheartening.
“My strength coach had the nerve to ask me to lift after this game,” Cousins joked in the locker room. “I almost lost it. If I had any energy, we would’ve fought.”