Pelicans second-half preview: Breaking down the first half, prepping for the trade deadline, studying the playoff chase and more _lowres

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) drives with the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 116-99. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

To hear Jrue Holiday tell it, the New Orleans Pelicans always had the best of intentions.

They always wanted to stick to Alvin Gentry’s offense, always wanted to settle into it and get comfortable.

Adversity, though, has a way of upending intention. Injuries and a 1-11 start made for desperate times and disparate approaches to scoring.

“I think there were times when we were comfortable (in the offense) at first,” Holiday said. “But when somebody hit us in the mouth, we’d try to veer back to being a little individual and going one-on-one.”

Lately, though, New Orleans — which hosts the Houston Rockets at 7 p.m. Monday at the Smoothie King Center — has shown signs of offensive life.

In the past six games, the Pelicans statistically are one of the NBA’s best offensive teams, looking a little like the well-oiled engine Gentry envisioned when he took the job last spring.

“The thing I like about this group right here, they’ve kind of hung in with it,” Gentry said. “And we’ve gone through some tough stretches, but they’ve kind of hung in and kind of believed in what we’re doing and just gotten better.”

New Orleans (15-27) still faces an uphill climb to the playoffs. They entered Sunday four games behind the Sacramento Kings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

But the Pelicans have won five of six and enter Monday’s game on just their second three-game winning streak of the season.

Over this six-game stretch, New Orleans is fourth in the NBA in points per game at 110.3 and first in offensive rating at 115.9 points per 100 possessions.

The Pelicans have looked at times like the sort of pace-and-space, ball movement-oriented offense that Gentry helped usher into the NBA under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix and helped coach to an NBA title last season in Golden State.

Early in the season, the Pelicans were a far cry from it.

“I think that we’ve become very accepting of our roles,” Gentry said. “I think that we’re competing at a real high level. I think that they’re feeling comfortable. I still say that it takes a little time to feel comfortable in what we’re trying to do. This is something brand new for every guy in the locker room.”

As the Pelicans have settled in, a number of factors have contributed to an offensive boost. One isn’t offensive at all.

New Orleans still ranks 29th of 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency, allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions. But in the past 15 games, that number is 102.3, which ranks eighth in the league.

“The defensive end helps us (offensively),” forward Ryan Anderson said. “It helps us in transition. We’re a great transition scoring team. It’s really hard for teams to match up with us in transition. So for us, getting stops, we’re running. It’s great. It’s a great tempo for us, and it gives us momentum.”

The ball, too, has momentum.

A willingness to share the ball has been critical for New Orleans in its recent hot streak. In the past six games, the Pelicans are averaging 25.8 assists per game and getting 61.5 percent of their baskets off assists. The result is more good shots, fewer forced ones and a more efficient offense.

“Of course there’s going to be shots in the game that everybody takes that’s heat checks or they feel like they got a mismatch,” forward Anthony Davis said. “But we can’t take five or six of them in a row. It’s got to be one every now and then. That’s what’s happening.”

The schedule also likely has been a factor in New Orleans’ offensive surge. The Pelicans’ past six opponents entered Sunday with a combined record of 122-145, a stark contrast to the brutal early-season schedule.

Still, there’s an undeniable growing comfort in the offense. New Orleans has scored at least 100 points in its past six games, a season-best streak. The Pelicans have scored at least 114 in each of the first three games of a seven-game homestand.

At one point in Saturday’s win against Milwaukee, Davis said, the Pelicans “ran the same play about seven, eight times in a row and got something good out of it every time.”

“I think we’re clicking defensively as well,” Davis said. “This is how we envisioned it during training camp. It’s starting to come around, and it looks real nice.”


A look at the Pelicans’ offensive production over the past six games compared to their season stats (NBA ranks in parentheses):

Points per game

Season: 102.3 (9th)

Past six games: 110.3 (4th)

Field goal percentage

Season: 44.7 (14th)

Past six games: 48.1 (5th)

Offensive rating

Season: 103.2 (10th)

Past six games: 115.9 (1st)

Assists per game

Season: 21.9 (13th)

Past six games: 25.8 (5th)