The Pelicans started the game off like a legitimate NBA team. They showed effort on both ends of the floor and did some good things. Alexis Ajinca, in his initial stint, had 6 points, 4 rebounds and a steal. A number of other Pelicans got into the paint area and converted plenty of good looks. With 4:21 remaining in the first quarter, New Orleans was up 20-12.
Then, it was as though someone decided to change the script to something only Stephen King could conjure up. Tyreke Evans missed all five shot attempts. Brian Roberts did nothing for 6 and 1/2 minutes (for the last time, why is he playing exclusively over Austin Rivers?) Stiemsma converted one lay-up and rebound in over 8 minutes of action. And the entire team failed to find Anthony Morrow, one of the league's best perimeter shooters, for a single attempt. Not. A. One.
But wait, it gets better.
On the other end of the floor, Nene checked into the game and proceeded to hit us in the mouth with his aggressive style of play. No one stood up to him. Then the rest of the Wizards smartly followed suit and completely dismantled our defense. Granted, it wasn't that difficult as the Pelicans played with ultra-poor effort. And when Anthony Davis picked up his second foul with 6:51 in the 2nd quarter, all hell really broke loose.
We could pick any number of possessions to point out the heartless play, but I'll focus on the last one. With less 17 seconds left, the Pelicans let the Wizards ran down the clock, let Wall waltz to the rim and allowed Vesely to get an easy tip-in right before the buzzer sounded. No one attempted to impede Wall and no one certainly put a body on Vesely for rebound. Truly, a gutless performance, and it wasn't the least bit surprising the Pelicans found themselves down 61-44.
During the second quarter, I commented how embarrassing that none of our players were outraged by their performance and attempted to right the ship. Well, our cheerleader (the coaching part remains questionable) Monty Williams, must have gotten some part of a message across during halftime. The Pelicans roared out to an 8-0 start. But before there was joy in Mudville, Bradley Beal hit a couple of three's and Ajinca missed an easy lay-in and the deficit ballooned back to 20. An 11-0 run for the Wizards. Sigh.
The rest of the game went as expected -- the team finally awoke when it was too little too late. That's squarely on the coach and the players. No adjustments, no effective schemes and, worst of all, no pride...when it still mattered. Making it interesting in the end doesn't count, as the NBA doesn't award moral victories, and the Wizards probably relaxed quite a bit after building a 23-point lead.
It will be interesting to see how the Pelicans fare this Friday night against the division-rival Mavericks. Another lousy performance and it might be time to start asking those difficult questions.
- Monty Williams was mic'd up tonight and I don't recall much substance -- hence, I'll now refer to him as The Cheerleader. Okay, I can understand taking Anthony Davis out in the second quarter with 2 fouls, down 10. But when things go from bad to worse, you've got to put him back in the game. An inexperienced team can lose the game in the 1st half. Some other remarks:
- Seriously, how can one continue to support Roberts and Stiemsma over Rivers and Withey, night in night out? Overall, their performances are usually sub-par. If they're not helping us win games, then why go for the double whammy and stunt the team's growth. The playoffs are (most likely, were) a nice idea, but it's much more important what the core of this roster does after this season.
- Why hasn't the team's offense been adjusted yet in an attempt to fill Ryan Anderson's void? Anthony Morrow has one of the best 3FG% in the NBA but you can't get him a single shot while the game matters? The team needs spacing so 13 shots from deep will NEVER cut it.
- What is with the continued lack of effective time-out management? What are you saving them for? It's coaching 101 to attempt to break the opponent's momentum.
- Anthony Davis -- congratulations -- for not giving up like some of your brethren. Your hustle and effort in the 2nd half was readily apparent. After seeing you hit the 3 from the corner, the pro-analytics crowd is now salivating. We might ask for you to go ahead and experiment some more.
- Eric Gordon -- congratulations -- for maintaining a nice streak of statistically strong games.
- Greg Stiemsma -- congratulations -- you're the worst player on the roster but have somehow convinced Dell Demps to sign you and Monty give you minutes. For the last time, personal fouls are NOT an enviable statistic.
- Brian Roberts -- congratulations -- up to this point, you've effectively taken away much needed development time from Rivers or even Pierre Jackson. It was nice to see you find your shot, but it happened when the game was largely out of hand. If you can't perform like this when you first check into the game, we're better off you don't get off the bench.
- Pelican fans in attendance -- congratulations -- for booing the pathetic play you had to endure from pretty much the 2nd quarter on. Double congratulations if you stayed long enough to see the Pelicans make their run. It's important that the guys who were responsible for the turnaround be rewarded with cheers.