In a lost season, one theme has stayed constant -- Monty's questionable decision-making.
Yes, the Pelicans have been beset by numerous injuries to their core. Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Jason Smith, Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis have all missed at least 8 games respectively. And without them, a number of losses were going to be inevitable.
However, fans of the team have witnessed enough close losses, where subtle changes to the lineups or a solid offensive or defensive set down the stretch, would have netted the Pelicans the win. Instead, we usually have had to walk away disappointed. (Even in games where the margin was comfortably in our favor, they were made interesting too many times in waning moments.)
Tonight was no different. Up 4, with 3:38 left in the game, the Pelicans would only manage to tally 4 more points, all on free throws. The execution was pitiful. On one play, Alexis Ajinca took an ill-fated drive after Roberts pounded away a good deal of the shot-clock. Easy miss. A little bit later, Monty trusted Roberts to read the defense correctly on a play designed for a lob to Anthony Davis. Turnover. A couple of other possessions in the last few minutes or so of the game involved long contested jumpers after more senseless dribbling. Clang and clank.
What's more troubling is the fact that some of the poor offensive sets might have been overcome had either/both Austin Rivers and Tyreke Evans been on the floor down the stretch. Most of the reserves +/- game stats screamed the truth. When they were on the floor, the team undoubtedly performed better.
Even had their individual games been off, they still would have given the offense and defense a better chance to succeed. Anthony Morrow was en fuego, 7-8 from the floor. However, shortly after hitting his final 3 of the game, Rivers was pulled from the game and, moments later, Evans. Morrow failed to manage another attempt in the final 8:08 of the game.
However, the best example of Monty's brilliance was put on display during the final 7 seconds of the game. For no coherent reason, Roberts remained in the game to guard John Wall. One of the team's worst defenders was asked to stop an elite penetrating point guard. As expected, Wall broke Roberts down, drove deep into the lane, forcing Jeff Withey to help near the rim and Wall merely had to flip the ball to Nene for an easy game-winning dunk.
Rinse and repeat.
54 games into the season and Monty Williams still fails to remotely show he understands how to put his personnel into successful positions. The trade deadline has passed, so showcasing talent can't be the issue. Due to the overwhelming number of injuries, the rest of the roster has had plenty of time to demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses.
Since the All-Star break, the Pelicans have lost 3 straight games by a combined 11 points. All of the games could have ended up in the win column. But damned to hell if the failures of Monty-Ball didn't leave their mark. Following tonight's loss, numerous blogs, forums and Twitterverse exploded with #FireMonty. It's high time we all accept that they're right.