Biggest improvement/thing that has impressed you the most over the 10 game streak? And will it continue?
Jake: To me it’s been the mental makeup of the Pelicans. It’s tough to describe/quantify, but the effort level of the team is greater than we’ve seen it since, perhaps, the Chris Paul years. Over this winning streak the Pelicans have not quit once when they’ve fallen into big deficits, does not get rattled when an opponent cuts into the lead, and steps up when Anthony Davis leaves with an injury. Most importantly they try on defense! Whether they understand the stakes of this season or Alvin Gentry has gotten through to them, or a combination of the two, it seems like the culture has changed in New Orleans. That is often sustainable.
Jason: I’m not sure if it will last, but there seems to have been a mentality change for the whole team when it matters most. Third quarter woes seem to be a thing of the past, as the Pelicans have consistently either won or competed step-for-step in third quarters. Also at the end of games, the team seems to be focused and able to close things out well, even if it takes a few extra periods. Even in the fourth quarter of the win against the Clippers, the Pelicans gave up 10 more points than they scored, but Jrue Holiday came up with a huge steal and the team hit their free throws late to seal it. Strong clutchtime play is going to be hugely important if this team is able to get to the playoffs with good seeding.
Luis: Speaking of Jrue, that’s my pick. He was already having what was shaping up to be a career year, but during the win streak, he’s been even more career year-y, statswise. And besides his counting stats seeing an improvement, we’ve seen his defense continue to be at an excellent level consistently. He’s looked more assertive and at times downright dominant, scoring and getting to the paint at will. In a year where I was worried about the backlash to his contact, he was already delivering and even moreso during the streak.
Honorable mention, the increase in Boogie tidbits. Telling AD to donate his Achilles tendon if he was gonna stay in the locker room when he got elbowed in LA. But my favorite of all was him telling AD that if he won the All Star MVP, it was legally Boogies since AD was wearing the Boogie jersey. #NBAwww
Rory: The energy of the city. Usually, my friends, family, and coworkers talk to me about the Pelicans as if they’re offering condolences. Boogie is out? For the season? I’ll bring over a tuna casserole. Just…let me know if you need anything. Now? People can’t wait to talk Pels with me. Specifically, the fans are finally coming around on Jrue Holiday. The national media narrative is that this win streak is a one-man show, but locals seem to finally be giving Jrue the level of respect he’s spent all season earning. While the city’s energy has yet to meet the passion of the 2007-08 run, nor is it getting quite as feverish as the weeks before Cousins’ injury, the momentum is building. The Smoothie King Center should be rocking come the postseason.
Raby: Yeah, tweets from Saints players about going to the Pelicans game is great. I love seeing the city embrace this team. My answer is defense. The team has steadily improved its Defensive Rating to middle of the pack from the pit they were in earlier in the season, and although they’re still allowing a lot of points (keep in mind this streak has seen 4 overtime periods), the defensive energy has definitely amped up over the streak. They’re talking to each other, they’re making their rotations, and Jrue and AD are both making superstar defensive plays. I also want to give a shout out to Nikola Mirotic, who has never been seen as a defensive threat but is putting energy and effort on that side of the ball. This defense as a whole seems to be an effort thing, so hopefully with the return of noted defender Solomon Hill and the stakes high until the end of the season, they can keep the clamps down for these next 19 games.