How fitting that on Festivus — the most-favored of fictional holidays — the New Orleans Pelicans revealed they’ve spent some time recently airing grievances.
Giving voice to grievance is a staple of the Dec. 23 mock-holiday — a pop-culture staple since “Seinfeld” introduced it in 1997 — and though the Pelicans didn’t speak out on Wednesday, they might have reaped the benefits of it.
After a 115-89 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers at the Smoothie King Center, star Anthony Davis said, it was clear that clearing the air recently has paid off.
“That’s what you need,” Davis said after a 28-point, 12-rebound, three-block performance. “Now you can see we’re playing totally different. We’re playing hard, we’re playing for each other, playing together. Guys are moving the ball, passing up good shots for great shots. The offense looks good. Our defense is getting better.”
And though Wednesday’s win on its own was hardly a jaw-dropping feat of strength — Portland fell to 11-20 and played the game without its best player, point guard Damian Lillard — it did represent some significant steps.
The win got the Pelicans (9-19) to 6-6 at home, the first time this season they’ve hit the .500 mark at the Smoothie King Center. It also improved their record to 8-8 since a disastrous, injury-plagued 1-11 start.
New Orleans got there in style, leading by three points after one quarter then controlling the final three quarters. The Pelicans held Portland to 34.7 percent shooting and scored 25 points off 14 Blazers turnovers.
Tyreke Evans finished with 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Jrue Holiday scored 19 points. Ryan Anderson added 13 and Eric Gordon 11. The Pelicans shot 48 percent and despite being outrebounded 58-49 played with one of their most consistent efforts of the season.
New Orleans led 53-36 at halftime — a season low for first-half points by a Pelicans opponent — and by double digits the entire second half.
“It felt like this group is finally meshing tonight,” Anderson said. “Tonight was the game where it really felt like we were imposing our will on them and they had to play our game and our tempo, and it felt good.”
New Orleans won its second straight game, just the second time this season the Pelicans have won consecutive games and the first since winning three straight from Nov. 20-25.
“There definitely is a rhythm,” Holiday said. “ When we get a rhythm like that, hopefully we can just sustain it and get some wins.”
It’s a different vibe than after last week’s 104-88 loss in Phoenix, the game after which Holiday said he thought the Pelicans held their grievance-airing meeting.
No player could pinpoint the exact time, and Davis and guard Norris Cole said there’s been more than one meeting to make sure players were on the same page.
The point, Davis said, was to make sure players were communicating, to ensure that each player was “doing their job” on the defensive end. The meetings were meant to give players the chance to address whatever issues were lingering.
“That’s what it takes,” said Cole, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury but returned in the second half. “You got to have brutal honesty sometimes. That’s exactly what it takes. You can’t beat around the bush. Sometimes you have to have direct communication with each other and be able to take it, because we all want the same thing, and that’s to win.”