What is the value of a win?
Beyond the obvious tally in the standings and check mark on the nightly objective, there are additional benefits to walking off of the court victorious.
For the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, it included a sizable exhale in the postgame locker room. Their 107-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls not only snapped a six-game losing streak, but also provided a jolt of assurance for a team in need of some.
“It’s big,” guard Jrue Holiday said. “It gave us confidence being back home after a long road trip. So just being able to come back home and lock in, even though we slipped a little bit, being able to finish out the game like we did was key.”
It trickled down from the top.
A pregame meeting between superstar Anthony Davis and coach Alvin Gentry set the tone. On the heels of Davis suffering through a sprained elbow and three sluggish offensive outings, the pair discussed how to regroup and move forward.
The message took hold, as Davis piled up 32 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks, rediscovering his swagger in the process.
“It felt good,” Davis said. “I was thinking too much and wasn’t playing like myself and playing how I usually play. Coach brought me in and talked to me a little bit to get me back to being me.”
His confidence boost took widespread effect.
While injuries to Davis and Elfrid Payton hampered the Pelicans throughout the long losing streak, there were systemic issues wreaking havoc to the rest of the roster. A litany of turnovers and sloppy defense allowed opponents to blitz New Orleans with lopsided runs and bury the Pelicans into 20-point deficits.
It prompted understandable teeth gnashing from several Pelicans’ players, who pinpointed the issues, but couldn’t get them under control. In fact, New Orleans recorded the NBA’s second-worst defensive efficiency over the six-game span, barely leading the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose situation unraveled so badly they fired their head coach.
So, the Pelicans needed an outing like Wednesday’ win.
It’s why Gentry pressed his face against the final box score, uncertain the last time he saw an opponents’ final score recorded in double-digits. Despite surrendering 15 turnovers, the Pelicans only allowed those to turn into nine points, and held the Bulls to a season-low 39.6 percent shooting.
“It’s really important to know we can lock in defensively, especially against a guy like (Zach) LaVine who is a volume scorer,” Holiday said. “It’s a really big win for us in that way.”
But Gentry admitted the improved production wasn’t the result of a schematic adjustment.
Sometimes, performance simply supersedes preparation. And it stems from confidence.
“I thought we had better execution,” Gentry said. “I thought we had multiple efforts, which matters. A couple of times we had a good stop and they got it back, but we continued to play. I think that’s where we kind of missed the boat a little bit (during the losing streak). We would have a great effort but you have to have multiple efforts, because if they grab an offensive rebound and throw it back out, we have to be there to challenge those shots.
“I thought we did a really good job of doing that.”
The explanation might be a bit simpler than that, though.
Facing a rebuilding Eastern Conference opponent rather than a gauntlet of Western Conference contenders makes a difference. And they’ll get another chance to tally an expected victory at 6 p.m. Saturday when the Pelicans play the Phoenix Suns inside the Smoothie King Center.
These are the types of nights that winning does more than put another number in the column. It breaks a funk, breeds confidence and can change the dynamic of a season.
“No one wants to lose five or six games in a row,” Gentry said. “We were playing really good teams, but that doesn’t matter. You just don’t want to lose five or six games in a row, so just to come home and get a win, I think it takes a lot of the pressure off of the guys.”