Pelicans rout Nets behind Rondo’s 25 assists
NEW ORLEANS — The basketball was moving faster than a pinball, and Rajon Rondo was the pinball wizard straight out of a Who song, pushing all the right buttons at exactly the right moments.
The New Orleans Pelicans point guard set a franchise and career record Wednesday night with 25 assists, and the utter control Rondo showed with the ball in his hands willed New Orleans to its third consecutive victory, 128-113 over the Brooklyn Nets at the Smoothie King Center.
“To get 25 is pretty incredible,” said Anthony Davis, whose 33-point, 11-rebound and season-high, six-block night was stage left to Rondo’s center-stage performance.
“We looked like the Harlem Globetrotters at one point tonight,” added DeMarcus Cousins, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Rondo was the catalyst for the Pelicans setting a franchise record of 40 assists on 48 made field goals. His 25 assists were one more than his previous career high of 24, set in 2010 when he played for the Boston Celtics.
Rondo also is one of only four NBA players — Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and John Stockton are the others — to have multiple games of at least 23 assists in a game.
Rondo, who prefers to let his performance do the talking, was characteristically low-key about his achievement.
“We had (48) baskets with 40 assists, so that speaks for itself,” Rondo said. “It wasn’t just me. It was our team, a collective effort. The ball was hopping and we were making plays for each other.”
Jrue Holiday, who scored 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, said Rondo’s presence as a ball-handler and distributor makes his job as a shooting guard much easier.
“It was cool,” Holiday said. “I’m glad I got to be a part of that. You pretty much just have to move. If you see an open lane to cut, he’ll get it there. I don’t know how he does, but he’ll get it there.”
In winning their third straight game, the Pelicans improved to 18-16 and are looking at the next seven games — only two of which are against opponents with winning records — as vital to their playoff push.
Coach Alvin Gentry said Rondo’s unselfish play typifies what he wants his entire team to emulate.
“To be honest with you, it doesn’t surprise me,” Gentry said. “He’s done it in other situations — rebounding-wise, too. A point guard just doesn’t come up with 17 rebounds in a game. The way he plays, and the way he understands the game, the 25 assists really doesn’t surprise me.”
The Nets (12-22) lost for the seventh time in eight games. They were led by Caris LeVert with 22 points, but coach Kenny Atkinson was disappointed with his team’s defensive effort after playing well before losing 109-97 to San Antonio on Tuesday night.
“One hundred twenty-eight points; you can just end the story right there,” Atkinson said. “I am just disappointed. Against a good San Antonio team, I thought we really got after it defensively. Tonight, we just did not have the defensive mentality and defensive discipline to get stops. They are a potent offensive team. They got us in the paint and they really hurt us at the three-point.”
The Nets tried to make a game of it when the Pelicans sent both Davis and Cousins to the bench, closing the third quarter on a 17-0 run to cut the deficit to 91-75.
But when the Pelicans reinserted their starters, they put the game away with a 15-5 run to start the fourth quarter for a 106-80 lead.
Hollis-Jefferson scored a team-high 11 points in the first half, and Quincy Acy added 10 for Brooklyn.
NOTES: New Orleans has four of its next seven games at home, and only two of those opponents have winning records. “I think our guys understand what’s ahead of us right now,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. ... Gentry said G Ian Clark, who scored a team-high 19 points in a victory over Miami on Saturday, has remained ready despite limited playing time. “I just think it’s opportunity,” Gentry said. “I said to someone the other night it’s really tough for a guy when he’s not in the rotation and he may or may not not play. The thing about Ian is that he’s an unbelievable pro. He works at it and he’s prepared. He comes in every day as if he’s going to play.” ... Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said he was humbled by the positive comments San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich had about the direction of the franchise. “We aspire to have a similar culture, but that’s a tough task,” he said.