The young New Orleans Pelicans seem to be learning something about closing games, winning their last two in come-from-behind fashion, propelled by a 4th quarter scoring run.
Up until recently, the storyline played out opposite: the Pelicans would start hot, build up a promising lead, only to see it whittled down and eventually erased by the time the game clock hit zero.
One reason for New Orleans’ recent success: the team’s highest paid, max contract player – shooting guard Eric Gordon – igniting and sustaining those fourth quarter runs.
Gordon is finally healthy and it shows. This season, Gordon has now played in almost as many games, and for almost as many minutes, as in his first two seasons in New Orleans combined. Gordon missed 97 games in the two pervious seasons, compared with three this season.
1st Two Seasons with New Orleans:
Gordon’s 1,506 minutes played this season leads the team.
"I definitely feel different, more confident, this season," Gordon said. "The past 2 seasons I had to play looking over my shoulder, worried I’d hurt something. Now I can just get out there and play."
As important as scoring is, both Gordon and head coach Monty Williams identify aggressive defense as the key to the team’s 4th quarter success as of late.
"Our transition defense has gotten a lot better," Williams said. "Guys are getting used to playing with each other. They know the time they’re going to have on the floor. That helps with confidence. We know we have to take care of the ball, defend and compete every night. If we don’t, we don’t have a shot."
2014 started out in disappointing fashion for the Pelicans. The team lost 8 games in a row, without help from Jason Smith, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. However challenging those growing pains were, the Pelicans certainly seemed to have learned from them, now having won 7 of their last 11.