Pelicans falter down the stretch as Raptors win 107-100

The Pelicans gave up a huge first half lead and fell to the Raptors 107-100. Early in the first, the Pellies looked great - Evans was slashing into the lane at will, Stiemsma, Withey, and Ajinca were getting good looks in the paint, Eric Gordon was drilling threes, and Rivers was really fantastic off the bench. On the defensive end, the Pelicans seemed like they were reaping the benefits of an exhausted Raptors team that had just finished an overtime game in Atlanta the night before. Without Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors were unable to take advantage of the Pelicans' weak interior defense.

As the half came to a close, however, the Raptors seemed to get their sea legs. Tyler Hansbrough made life hard for the Pelican big men. In particular, he really gave Withey a hard time in the fourth quarter when Stiemsma was unable to play due to foul trouble. When the Raptors put up a shot, there were four people standing directly under the basket rather than a cleared out space, and that was because Hansbrough was out-muscling Withey on every shot - Psycho T finished with an impressive 7 offensive rebounds, and the Raptors had 11 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter while New Orleans notched only one.

Those second-chance opportunities let the Raptors come back while the Pelicans offense stalled - by the fourth quarter, the Pelicans looked like the tired team that wasn't able to get quickly into offensive sets and allowed the flow to stall. Gordon and Evans weren't able to slash to the basket, which was the core of the Pelican offense in the first half. The shooting went a bit cold, but turnovers really doomed the Pelicans down the stretch.

Let's go to the bullets:
  • Anthony Davis being unable to play has to be the story of the game - if you have him in the game in the fourth, the Pelicans offense probably doesn't stall and the Raptors don't get 13 second-chance points in the final period. I hope he feels better soon (like by Friday).
  • I'm really impressed by the progression of Aminu's jump shot - it used to be cringe-worthy every time, but he operated as a kind of perimeter-ish shooter in this game and succeeded wildly, making 7 of his 8 field goal attempts en route to 19 points. Instead of shooting bizarre rainbows, his shot looks silky-smooth. Monty even drew up a play in the final minute to get Aminu a corner three, and he nailed it.
  • I love Withey as much as anybody else here, but he had a really bad game today. He couldn't handle a number of passes, missed some easy looks, and was completely pushed around by Tyler Hansbrough. I'm glad he's getting minutes and I'm glad Monty stuck with him to the end of the game, though - it's good to have him fight through a tough game.
  • If Monty was strictly looking to win the game, he probably should have played Ajinca at the end of the game - Ajinca was having a great game, ripping down seven boards in 21 minutes and getting 10 points on four shots.
  • Tyreke Evans didn't knock down 20 points, but he was continuing his renaissance as a starter, being very efficient and distributing the ball well. He made a bunch of highlight-reel drives today, fitting through spaces where I didn't even see daylight.
  • Gordon disappeared down the stretch again, but he at least got to the free throw line today, hitting 5 of his 6 free throw attempts.
  • Austin Rivers looked great in the first half and was pretty terrible in the second, much like the team as a whole. His crossover was deadly and he was able to finish at the rim pretty consistently. He still can't use his left hand, though - he missed some pretty awkward shots because he wasn't willing to go with the left hand.
Next game is Friday at Atlanta - hopefully Anthony Davis will be back, or else we might not be competitive.
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