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‘It changes everything’: Hill, Clark, Mirotic outshoot Warriors to make work easy for Davis, Holiday

May 5, 2018

If the New Orleans Pelicans are shooting well, everything changes.

If New Orleans’ 3-point bombs are falling, the multiple defenders Anthony Davis requires are forced to go elsewhere. Their preferred revved tempo is much more controlled and even more effective.

And if they’re making shots, they become dangerous. Not predictable.

“We are happy about this game,” Nikola Mirotic said.

In front of a rowdy, towel-waving, frenzied Smoothie King Center, this is what Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry expected. Shots were falling.

“I think in general we’ll shoot the ball better, especially from the 3,” Gentry said Thursday, one day before the Pelicans’ 119-100 Game 3 win against the Golden State Warriors. “(In Game 2), we had a lot of open shots that we just didn’t get in the basket. Obviously, you know, in the playoffs, that becomes really important. You’re going to have to make shots.”

The Pelicans found out early on Gentry’s prediction would come to fruition.

Down 2-0 to Golden State and in need of a morale-boosting start, forward Solomon Hill connected on three 3-pointers in the opening quarter of the Pelicans’ make-or-break third Western Conference semifinal game.

“Oh man,” Mirotic said. “That was a big moment for us. Those 3s were really important.”

“It’s huge,” Jrue Holiday added.

No NBA team has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit.

Now, thanks to their best shooting outing of the series against the most threatening 3-point shooting bunch in NBA history, the Pelicans will not have the chance to be the first.

New Orleans made half of its 96 attempts. Golden State missed 22 3-pointers. Regardless of shooting 14 fewer free throws, the Pelicans won by 19.

Hill and backup point guard Ian Clark, who also buried three 3-pointers and added 18 points, scored 27 of the Pelicans’ 32 bench points.

Hill’s trio of 3-balls were the most he’s made in a game this season, besting two triples on March 27 against the Portland Trail Blazers. His 3-point splurge marked the first 3s he has made in the series.

With nine points by the end of the opening quarter, Hill notched the most points he’s scored in any of the Pelicans’ seven playoff games this postseason and tied the most he’s scored in a game this season.

The clean-shaved, beardless Mirotic was revived, too.

Mirotic, who missed 15 shots in Games 1 and 2, sank three of the Pelicans’ 14 3-pointers and scored 16 points in Game 3 to ensure Gentry’s second prediction.

In Game 1, Mirotic was tasked to defend Warriors All-NBA megastar Kevin Durant, which, for any defender, drains offensive fuel because stopping Durant is to achieve the unachievable.

In Game 2, once the Pelicans swapped some defensive assignments and all but surgically attached Jrue Holiday to Durant’s hip, Mirotic scored 18 points but clearly wasn’t the fiery marksman the Smoothie King Center has seen thrive in these playoffs.

As he did in the series-clinching Games 3 and 4 at home against the Blazers, Mirotic needed New Orleans’ rally-towel-waving, confidence-boosting fans to back him up.

“He’s had some of his best games playing right here,” Gentry said.

Game 5 and a trip back to Oakland is now required.

When Mirotic is connecting, the Pelicans’ offense can become lethal. Davis became freed and scored 33 points. Holiday’s driving lanes became wider than an empty freeway. Rajon Rondo, the only player in the past decade with multiple 20-assist playoff games, can dink and dunk opposing defenses however he sees fit. He had 21 dimes Friday.

“Guys made shots,” Davis said. “When you make shots, it’s hard to double team. That kind of just opened up the floor for me a little bit and I was able to attack it and be more aggressive.”

“It changes everything,” Gentry said.