There are two distinct versions of the Pelicans’ offense, and it’s obvious when each is going to appear.
When the Pelicans play in New Orleans they entered Thursday averaging 108.9 points per game, the second-best home scoring output in the NBA. Their field goal percentage is a sky-high 46.4 percent field including 39.1 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Meanwhile, when the Pelicans travel, their offense doesn’t accompany them.
New Orleans’ 3-15 road record is saddled by scoring just 97.1 points per game, which includes significant dropoffs in shooting percentage and 3-point percentage while dishing five fewer assists per game in than in home contests.
“The record reflects the way we played on the road from the standpoint of just inconsistencies and the things we’ve done,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “We just have to get better in those areas and the turnovers. We just need to be more focused on the road. At the end of the day, if you’re going to have any chance of making the playoffs, then we need to do a much better job at playing on the road than we have been doing.”
Even opponents have begun to notice the Pelicans drastic dependent-location transformations. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he warned his team how much better New Orleans plays inside the Smoothie King Center before Thursday night’s game, and that watching game film supported his thesis.
“I just notice the ball going in more, that’s for damn sure,” Rivers said before Thursday’s game. “That happens sometimes early in seasons, and I don’t know why that happens.
“Their pace is definitely better here and that may be the thing that stands out the most, watching it as a staff (Thursday). When you watch them in Orlando (a 104-89 loss) or a game here, the pace is just completely different in this building. Because of the pace and the more shot attempts, they just play better.”
But, the perceived uptick in pace is merely a mirage, masked by improved efficiency.
The Pelicans average just 0.3 more possessions per game at home this season and have actually gotten fewer possessions in the Smoothie King Center than on the road over the past five games.
Instead they’ve simply shot better and produced better possessions, rather than just more of them.
It’s not something Pelicans’ players have been able to diagnose. Forward Ryan Anderson jokingly pinned the issue on Pierre the Pelican, the team’s plush mascot.
“I don’t know,” Anderson said. “I really don’t know. In the past, we’ve played better at home too.”
The injury report has shrunk, but Quincy Pondexter’s name has remained stubbornly listed since the start of the season.
An injury that required offseason surgery to the small forward’s right knee cartilage has kept him off of the floor since the start of preseason, although he’s done some individual workouts and has been seen shooting on the floor.
“There’s not really a set date, but, if I was a betting man or a guessing man, it’s probably a couple of weeks (before he returns),” Gentry said. “That’s just being on the safe side. We’ll see.”
The Pelicans have also been cautious with point guard Jrue Holiday, but the restrictions are officially off, Gentry said.
Although Holiday hasn’t played more than 28 minutes per game yet (recovering from a stress reaction in his leg that kept him out of 90 games the past two seasons), he’s received Gentry’s praise for agreeing to come off the bench and performing well in that role.
“(The restrictions) are off,” Gentry said. “They’ve kind of been off. But we have to be smart with the way we use him. He’s not going to be able to be a 35- to 38-minute per game player. We, as coaches, have to be careful not to overdo it. The restrictions are off, and I think he’s in a good place and is playing really good basketball for us.”