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X's & O's - Pelicans Execute in Crunch Time

Really excited to dive into the TBW's initial X's and O's feature. Look for similar pieces down the road to help explain future strategies, successful or not.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday against Portland, the Pelicans attempted to take a knee in basketball. The lead ball handler would dribble out the first 12 seconds of the shot clock before initiating the set. The ball rarely exchanged hands and the offensive action, if you could call it that, consisted solely of simplistic high ball screens and isolation plays. Or for those who prefer, hero basketball. It was a terrible combination of scheme and execution which ground New Orleans attack to a painful halt.

Thus, it was understandable that Pelican fans were concerned last night a similar result was in the cards. The Sacramento King reserves had whittled a once double digit lead down to just four points, with DeMarcus Cousins on the bench. The Pelicans needed points and a few earlier displays of hero ball were simply not cutting it. With the score 92-87, New Orleans opted to run offense instead.

Horns Catch

Two things should jump out immediately. This is off a made basket (McCallum three pointer) and the entry pass from Jrue Holiday to Tyreke Evans on the elbow is received with 16 seconds on the shot clock. The Pelicans are not choosing to dribble out the clock here. Eric Gordon is going down to set a down screen for Anthony Davis. Players and the ball are moving.

Horns Screen

Anthony Davis sets a solid screen (this is sadly a rarity for AD) on Rudy Gay which frees up Tyreke Evans towards the basket. Omri Casspi (at the bottom of the screen) is defending Ryan Anderson on the weak side. Anderson is in motion from the corner toward the wing for a possible three.

At this point of the game, Anderson is 6-8 in the second half -- Ryno is dangerous and Casspi knows it.

Horns Alley

Boogie does his job in cutting off an easy drive to the rim for Tyreke Evans. Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore stick to Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon on the perimeter. Casspi strays as far away from Anderson as is prudent, without setting himself up to get burned by the Flamethrower.

Everyone is too late because all passes in the direction of the backboard can be caught and finished by Anthony Davis.

Horns Oop

The finish is just what you would expect.

New Orleans went back to this same exact set the very next possession. Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon switched positions and McLemore got caught trying to help Rudy Gay cut off Tyreke driving to the basket. Evans kicked it out and Gordon knocked down the open three. A five point lead ballooned to ten in the span of 60 seconds.

Although the Kings would go on to make one more run and cut the lead to four, the Pelicans held their ground. Evans converted on consecutive possessions -- a layup where no King stopped the ball and then on a difficult fall-away after getting the mismatch against Cousins on the perimeter.

Tack on four free throws and the Pelicans notched quite an improbable victory. One that was quite necessary for a team with real playoff aspirations after enduring a crushing loss just 24 hours earlier.