It was always going to be something of an offensive struggle, with Charlotte's 6th-ranked defense playing rather well. And yet, that's no excuse for New Orleans' particular brand of offensive struggle for three and a half quarters -- extremely late half-court setups, the ball heavily in Brian Roberts' and not Eric Gordon's or Tyreke Evans' hands, liberal dosages of Greg Stiemsma screens, and of course, coma-inducing levels of 20 footers. You don't deserve to beat anyone with all those things going, let alone a top-10 defense.
A strong defensive run spanning the heart of the fourth quarter and featuring, how surprising!, Anthony Davis at center, flanked by quick doubles of Al Jefferson coming from the 4 (largely Aminu), pulled New Orleans back into the contest. It wasn't enough to pull it off.
- Tyreke Evans was absolutely wretched. On a number of his awful finishing nights, unlucky bounces looked primary culprits to his ineptitude; tonight, the release points and shot forms themselves looked highly, highly suspect. Evans' 7 assists against 1 turnover kept this from being a total disaster of course.
- I thought Roberts made a critical mistake with 30 seconds left by passing to Eric Gordon in the corner while en route to the hoop and no Charlotte defender covering the rim. Pulling up is obviously Roberts' game and his momentum at the time dictated that he'd need to take all the way to get the shot off. But simply put: he should have.
- Al Jefferson's raw line -- 33 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block -- looks mighty impressive, but he used 37 possessions (30 FGA, 6 FTA, 4 turnovers) to get those 33 points for a relatively awful rate of 0.891 points/possession (the worst offensive team in the league, the 76ers, scores at a 0.987 rate). There's plenty of critique to go around re: Monty Williams' use of Stiemsma and to a lesser extent Ajinca in this game, but the final result with Jefferson is that New Orleans mostly got it right.
- Due to Charlotte's spectacularly awful free throw shooting, we were treated to a fine display of just how terrible Monty Williams' late game playcalling is. The Pelicans' first clutch attempt was the Roberts pass to Gordon in the corner. The second was a Gordon foray to the hoop (and turnover) with very, very poor floor spacing even at the play's onset. The final attempt (trailing by 2 with 15 seconds to go) was another Gordon trip to the hoop, one that ostensibly worked, but mostly due to a very poor switch Charlotte executed at the top of the play. And then Gordon bricked the second free throw anyway.
The Bobcats begged New Orleans to take the game away from them; New Orleans, needless to say, did no such thing.