The bad news started before the game even began.
The announcement happened so close to tip-off that the Pelicans had already listed Patric Young and Russ Smith as inactive for the contest. Considering that there is another game to be played in less than 24 hours, we should expect Omer Asik to sit out against the Jazz as well. With this news combined with the shellacking we received in the Mile High City, we'll find out quickly whether the Pelicans think of themselves as playoff contenders tomorrow in Salt Lake City.
As for tonight, the Pelicans first two possessions should have clued us in. Both Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans missed lay-ups within the first 33 seconds of the game. Although the Pelicans recovered initially to take a 14-2 lead, everything that followed the first timeout of the game belonged to the Nuggets.
For starters, after our run, Denver went on an astounding 48-20 run, and scarily, they needed only a hair over 15 minutes to put up such a ludicrous point total. The offense...well there was no offense. Ball movement? Nope. Players moving, cutting and running sets crisply and effectively? Not here.
Instead, we had to bare witness to a more missed shots right around the rim. And it wasn't just Tyreke. Gordon, Holiday and Rivers all took their turns. From the outside, Anderson decided to build a house.
Even the one who wears the cape on the team wasn't infallible. Anthony Davis picked up two quick turnovers in the 1st quarter and finished with four for the game. (This was only the 3rd time in 11 games he's had more than 1 for an entire game.) In addition, after starting the game 4-4 from the field, AD would go on to to make just 3 of his next 13 shots. He was so frustrated that he picked up a technical foul because he wasn't able to corral the ball after slamming it down on the court. That's right, if he had caught the carom it, no technical would have been given.
Speaking of whistles, the Pelicans didn't get many of them, especially in the first half. Although the free throw attempt disparity only sat at 16-9 after 24 minutes, Monty came close to picking up a technical himself on several occasions arguing over the apparent discrepancy in the foul calls.
The worst offender on the night though had to be the Pelicans defense. They never gave themselves a true chance to win the game because they repeatedly stabbed themselves in the foot. If it wasn't a breakdown in the defense, it was a missed defensive rebound. And how many times will our players continue to fall for the opponents first pump fake? Don't they practice with Luke Babbitt???
By the end of the night, Denver had scored 20 more points in the paint than the coming-into-tonight NBA leader, your Pelicans. Our team's bread and butter was completely absent. Bad games happen and some nights will not go a team's way. However, unlike the recent loss to Cleveland, this game felt different. Way worse different.
- Almost all 50/50 balls went to the Nuggets.
- For too long of a period, the offense failed to execute the most basic of sets. They turned it over more than the opposition (a rarity) and compiled an assist to turnover ratio of 19 to 12. Yuck.
- The defense was missing in action. Thank goodness Dell Demps traded for Asik; however, it's disconcerting a player who has never had back issues is suddenly breaking down before games. Dare I even say it, Pelicans medical staff? You all know what I'm thinking.
Lastly, Monty Williams went back to his puzzling ways. Let's count the ways.
- During the tidal wave that was the Nuggets momentum, Monty watched 5 reserves go scoreless for the first 4 minutes and 15 seconds of the 2nd quarter. Considering how small of a rotation Monty had been using coming into the game, it wasn't surprising to see the Pelicans fall on their face.
- For the final 2 minutes of the 3rd quarter, again not a single starter. Meanwhile, the Nuggets still had three. Correctly, some assumed perhaps Monty was saving his guys for tomorrow's game, but...
- Monty decided to bring the main troops back in with 8:45 remaining in the 4th quarter, once the score was 98-77. Worse, he left 4 of them in until just 3:33 remained in the game and the deficit was 24 points.
- Jeff Withey played well and scored 9 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. In his initial stint in the first half, he helped the Pelicans cut a 16-point deficit to 10.
- Jrue Holiday's defense on Ty Lawson was exceptional. He read a number of Lawson's moves and cut him off before he ever reached the paint. If I'm not mistaken, he held Lawson to just 6 points.
- The Pelicans made 30 of 34 free throws.
- John Salmons scored his first points as a Pelican. Oh wait, it was in the 11th game, wasn't it?