AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Monty Williams has been around the league — five teams in nine seasons, to be exact — and he’s been through the tough losses and the rewarding victories.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ coach felt the frustration, much like his players did, after losing to Boston to drop below .500. And it showed not only on his face, but he even felt it in his shoulders and his back.
And a veteran such as Williams knows: “You’ve just got to deal with it. … You gotta do more than talk about it.”
So he made that message clear to his team before Wednesday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons. And against a Detroit team in the midst of its best stretch of basketball this season, the Pelicans responded — ultimately winning 105-94.
The key for New Orleans’ future, which continues on the road in Philadelphia, is sustaining that resilience beyond one game. And the key to that begins by sharing the basketball and playing defense the way it did Wednesday.
“We’ve got to stick to our game plan and we have to play as a team,” said guard Jimmer Ferdette following the game. “We need to continue to get out into transition and then move the basketball, share it. I think that’s a recipe for success.”
That team’s cohesiveness most notably came in the form of a stalwart defense Wednesday night. The Pelicans limited Detroit to 36 points in the first half while holding it to 11.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc in that period. They kept the Pistons at 36.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc for the duration of the game.
The trio of Anthony Davis, Omer Asik and Ryan Anderson should have no problem maintaining that defensive presence against the 76ers, who hold the third-worst record in the league. The trio managed to shut down the Pistons’ Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, two of best big men in the Eastern Conference. They’ll see an easier frontcourt Friday.
“We just played very sound basketball,” guard Eric Gordon said. “We really hovered down and played really good defense. Everybody was scoring and everybody was contributing. It was fun.”
Not only did they come up on offense, but the trio also combined to score 52 points, compensating for Jrue Holiday’s presence on offense. Holiday remains questionable for Friday night’s game despite indicating he still wanted to play. Last year, Holiday played with a broken elbow, Williams said, without his coach or teammates knowing.
“One thing our fans have to understand, is that if Jrue is in pain, he’s in pain,” Williams said. “He plays through a lot of stuff. … I had to be his brains the other day. I sat him down. He wanted to continue, but I didn’t like what I saw from him.”
Tyreke Evans and Gordon stepped up Wednesday, handling guard duties without issue. Should Holiday sit out, they’ll get their first real test against Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams. The 76ers guard averages 14.8 points and 7.3 assists a game, the lone offensive presence on the NBA’s lowest scoring, worst shooting team.
Evans and Gordon should get a break from small forward Quincy Pondexter, who handled guards Brandon Jennings and Jodie Meeks well in his first game with the Pelicans. Both Williams and Pondexter acknowledged his struggle to defend in the zone, but his experience has helped him learn quickly.
And as Williams knows, it doesn’t make a difference who is playing. His team has “just got to deal with it.”
“We just have to put some games together,” Williams said. “And that’ll shut up all the people that think we can’t be a consistent team because we know we can.”
Rivers traded to Clippers in 3-team deal: Austin Rivers has joined the Los Angeles Clippers to play for Doc Rivers in the first father-son, player-coach combination in NBA history.
The Clippers acquired Austin Rivers from the Boston Celtics on Thursday in a deal that included the Phoenix Suns.
By The Associated Press