New Orleans Pelicans power forward Dante Cunningham entered Thursday’s game against the Rockets averaging just over 5.0 points per game. Well, he finished with 15 on 6-of-10 shooting against Houston.
Even better? Fellow reserve power forward Ryan Anderson scored 16 in New Orleans’ 99-90 road win.
That’s 31 points off the bench between two players. If the Pelicans can get 31 points off the bench from two players, they’re going to win a lot of ball games.
“We’re just trying to do what we can to help the starting unit out,” Cunningham said on Ferrall on the Bench. “When we get in, we’re just trying to keep the energy, maintain the energy, and make it a lot easier for the starters.”
The Pelicans trailed by three entering the fourth quarter but outscored Houston 34-22 in the final frame. They held the Rockets to 33-of-86 shooting from the field (38.4 percent), including 6-of-25 from three-point range (24.0 percent).
“That just shows what our team can do,” Cunningham said. “When we’re buckled down and we have our heads on straight, anything can happen. We have such a great, energetic team. The sky’s the limit for us.”
Especially for Anthony Davis, who has another video game-like game for New Orleans. Davis scored 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting, he was 10-of-12 from the foul line, and he had 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals and five blocks.
Oh, and he also finished without a foul.
How is that possible?
“That sounds like an NBA2K game or something,” Cunningham said. “He’s just an unbelievable kid. When he’s out there, he’s just doing anything and everything he wants.”
Jrue Holliday (16 points, 10 assists) and Austin Rivers (10 points, six assists) also had solid games for New Orleans, which had more rebounds, assists and blocks than Houston. The Pelicans also limited James Harden to 21 points on 23 shots.
“Just Pelican basketball,” Cunningham said. “We were just trying to enforce our will.”
New Orleans (13-12) has won two straight games and five of seven. The only losses during that stretch were a 112-107 loss in Dallas on Dec. 10, and a 128-122 overtime loss against Golden State on Dec. 14.
To be clear, the Pelicans haven’t just beaten up on bad teams. In fact, they beat Cleveland, 119-114, last Friday, overcoming 41 points from LeBron James.
The Pelicans, however, have a tough schedule upcoming: against Portland (20-6), at Oklahoma City (12-14), at Indiana (8-18), against San Antonio (17-9) and at Chicago (16-9).
It’s a pivotal stretch for a New Orleans team that, right now, has the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Cunningham, 27, is in the midst of his sixth season, including his first in New Orleans. He’s played for some good and not-so-good teams in his career – Portland, Charlotte, Memphis and Minnesota – but he’s happy to be where he is.
“I love the team and the atmosphere here,” he said.