Aww shucks. We almost pulled out a really impressive win against the Trail Blazers, one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
With Jason Smith sidelined to a knee bone bruise, Monty Williams started our hopeful tandem-of-the-near-future, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis. And they didn't disappoint. The Pelicans started off fast -- making 8 of their first 10 field goals and jumped out to a quick 18-7 lead.
After some back and forth, the Pels increased the lead to 13 on Alexis Ajinca's first basket, an alley-oop lay-up from Jrue Holiday. With 4:05 left in the 2nd quarter and New Orleans leading 49-36, thanks to a 51.2 FG% vs. opponent 33 FG% edge, it was time to deliver a Mike Tyson-style haymaker.
Welp, it missed...badly.
From a questionable Ajinca offensive foul on a screen against Mo Williams, to Wesley Matthews slapping Eric Gordon on a close-in floater, to LaMarcus Aldridge coming over the back of an Anderson lay-up attempt, the Pelicans suddenly got swindled out of a key stretch of possessions. Meanwhile, on the other end, the Blazers poured in 14 points in a little over 2 minutes.
What should have been a sizable half time lead, evaporated in the blink of an eye and the Pelicans walked off the court with a disappointing one point lead. So many wonderful first half things were now largely irrelevant.
Unsurprisingly, the Blazers kept the momentum in the 3rd quarter and raced out to a ten point lead in less than 5 minutes. However, instead of dropping our 0-3 road-trip heads, the Pels pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and fought to the bitter end.
So much so that we had a 2-point advantage with 2:19 remaining. Then Damian Lillard decided to make his mark one last time. He drew a wonderful charge against Holiday and then proceeded to hit a long, cold-hearted 3 pointer from the top of the key. At the very end, the Pelicans had two opportunities to send it to overtime, but Anderson and Tyreke Evans both missed their attempts from beyond the arc. Game, set and match.
- Ajinca has my vote for minutes. If Monty doesn't want to look Jeff Withey's way and most of us tremble in fear of Lou Amundson and Greg Stiemsma, we should all just probably agree on the Frenchman. In 16:42 of playing time, Ajinca grabbed 11 rebounds and showed some nice tenacity, effort and passing ability. It's really unfortunate that his one massive blunder may be remembered above all else -- fouling Dorell Wright beyond the arc with the shot clock winding down.
- Davis did his usual things: from blocking a Lillard jumper to converting plenty of looks at the rim, both on put-backs and passes. However, one can't help but wonder why he didn't abuse Robin Lopez a whole lot more. Whether taking him off the dribble or rolling hard on a PnR, Davis should have scored more than 21 points.
- We love Evans one minute, hate him the next. He flashes his wonderful talent at times yet manages to sprinkle in at least several boneheaded mistakes. Now, his loyal followers will comment this is nothing new, but I'm still holding out hope he develops some better consistency.
- One thing that would probably help is if Holiday would attempt to assert himself just a little more. Not only is he coming of his first All-star season, he's been playing rather well the last 16 games. Taking his last shot attempt with 10:59 remaining in the game is unacceptable.
- 13 of 19 from the free-throw line won't get the job done in a number of close games and it certainly didn't tonight. Yes, we probably should have had a few more attempts, but that doesn't excuse the overall performance.
- Anthony Morrow got almost 15 minutes of run; however, the shooter garnered only 3 shot attempts. Against a porous defense. Monty and the rest of the coaching staff have got to get the team to make sure they find him more often.
- Not ready to give up on Austin Rivers long-term, but wouldn't it be fun to see what Pierre Jackson could do with those backup point guard minutes?