So said David Fisher in the gamethread, and so it was. Anthony Davis just couldn't carry the Pelicans down the stretch tonight. The ball got into his hands enough, but drives that ended in dunks two nights ago ended in blocked attempts tonight, and face-up attempts that ended in slick fadeaways turned into turnovers. Channing Frye kept him out of the paint for much of the night, leaving New Orleans's greatest defensive presence to guard a portion of the three-point arc.
One odd thing that persisted throughout the second half was a consistent switch on pick and rolls where Davis's man was the screener. Davis would switch onto the ball-handler (usually Bledsoe), leaving the original defender (usually Holiday) guarding a big. Davis had a hard time guarding the ball-handler, picking up a couple of fouls. And Holiday was burned a couple of times by the switch as well - Bledsoe would get the ball down to the big man and Holiday had no choice but to foul. That strategic choice really mystifies me.
Jason Smith was the whole offense tonight - he went 9-12 for 22 points. His ability to knock his mid-range J down cold (and the fact that Phoenix, mystifyingly, kept giving it to him) kept the Pelicans in the game. He had some defensive challenges tonight, but his offense was a life preserver for a New Orleans squad that desperately needed one.
Eric Gordon should have had way more field goal attempts. In the fourth, while Holiday and Davis kept wasting possessions, Gordon was just standing off to the side, waiting for a chance to make something happen. He's really our best player in a situation like that, where he can drive to the basket and make something happen when the team is down. As the game started winding down, he began to knock down some threes and drive to the bucket as Holiday stood to the side, but if that happened earlier, we might have had a chance. Even given that, Gordon was woefully inefficient tonight - really a poor effort all-around by the Pelicans guards.
Anthony Morrow finally got his shots and made the most of them, knocking down 7 of 11 for 16 points. Even though he was 2-4 from outside the arc, he seemed a bit gun-shy throughout the game, passing up 3-pt attempts that seemed reasonable either for a drive to the basket or a quick step-in long two. After playing 28 minutes, he should really have taken at least 8 threes.
Jrue Holiday was flat-out awful throughout the game. He started out fast, with 3 turnovers in the first quarter. He finished with just 5 turnovers, but went 8-17 with 16 points and 4 personals. Most damningly, he didn't attempt a single free throw. There were long possessions where he would dribble around and just couldn't find anybody to pass to and couldn't find an open shot. A really rough night that's part of a really rough start in New Orleans for Holiday.
Good gravy, Tyreke Evans. He was terrible in the first half, so bad that Monty Williams benched him in favor of Rivers and extra minutes for Morrow. He wasn't able to get to the rim, was taking ill-advised contested jumpers, and seemed out of sorts on defense. I'm not quite sure what he can possibly add to the team in his current incarnation, and the out of shape after the ankle injury excuse is getting less persuasive by the game.
It's very possible that Dell Demps's moves in the offseason to grab Holiday and Evans might have been very, very bad. We knew this was a possibility - taking two offensively inefficient guys, putting them in on the floor together and having them play off each other and lower each other's usages was supposed to work, but there wasn't really any anecdotal evidence of it working before. And as of right now, it's failing pretty severely - Holiday and Gordon will have to work very hard indeed to bring their ORtgs up to their career averages of 100, which were already unacceptably low. We have to hope that the team just hasn't gelled yet or that the return of Ryan Anderson will be the glue that holds this rickety model airplane together.