Home is where the shot is.
Whether it’s the rims, the angles, his conditioning or the crowd, something changes for Pelicans’ forward Ryan Anderson when he enters the Smoothie King Center. Shots not connecting in any other arena seem to find their way in when the Pelicans’ logo is emblazoned at center court.
Sunday evening’s 109-106 victory over the Dallas Mavericks only added to the increasing evidence of Anderson’s uneven performances. A torrid 36-point second quarter, in which he scored 14 of his 18 points, was the latest example of the spark he can provide to the Pelicans offense when he’s on.
The 36 points were New Orleans’ most productive period in six games, thanks in large part to not only Anderson’s shooting, but also the offensive spacing and matchup advantages he provided. On the other hand, without Anderson scoring in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks nearly upended the Pelicans, holding New Orleans to a game-low 20 points, including just 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the stanza.
It’s emblematic of Anderson’s season. In 24 road games, the Pelicans’ best perimeter shooter has managed to convert on 35 percent of his shots, including just 27 percent from 3-point territory. In the Smoothie King Center, he’s shooting 49 percent from the field and his 3-point accuracy boosts to a staggering 43 percent.
It’s not a coincidence, then, the Pelicans are a stellar 14-5 at home with wins over a bevy of playoff teams and just 9-16 on the road, saddled with losses to two of the three worst teams in the NBA.
“There’s no reason I can think of,” Anderson said when asked to account for the difference. “On the road, I’m just not shooting the ball as well. There’s no rhyme or reason for it. I just want to continue to work on my body and my shot and get more consistent.”
During the first half, Anderson found a variety of ways to attack the basket, hitting three contested mid-range jumpers and a pair of 3-pointers, while missing just once as the Pelicans exploded for their highest-scoring half in 21 games (and a 61-56 lead). In the midst of a turbulent season, Anderson hesitated say this win signified a turning point but expressed recognition in how his uneven play has affected the Pelicans’ outcomes.
“It felt good to go out there and knock down a few shots,” Anderson said. “At the same time, I need to be more productive because that’s my job here. I don’t want to go out there and be someone who leaves with the score (worse) than it was before.”
Offense for defense
Pelicans coach Monty Williams made a series of late-game substitutions on Sunday, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
First, Williams opted to play center Omer Asik next to Anthony Davis in the post for the majority of the fourth quarter instead of the typically-used Anderson. However, once the Pelicans trailed 102-99 with three minutes remaining the game, Anderson re-entered for offensive purposes.
Then, when New Orleans tied the score at 102, Asik re-entered to help close off the lane defensively. Instead, Mavericks’ guard Monta Ellis made consecutive drives and nearly uncontested layups in the game’s final minute, to wrestle the lead at 106-105.
Following Davis’ go-ahead free throws in the final 13 seconds, Williams went with an even heavier defensive lineup, also inserting forward Dante Cunningham in place of guard Eric Gordon.
It helped seal the victory, because Rajon Rondo was unable to successfully inbound the ball in the final 12 seconds, allowing Davis to seal the game with a steal and a pair of free throws.
“Monty does a great job of plugging guys in,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “He always has.”