A lack of shooting was the dominant theme. In their third game of the season, the Pelicans frosty early season shooting woes continued against the Grizzlies. After shooting 40.6% in the opener against the Magic and 42.6% against the Mavericks, tonight's 33.7% clip represented a new low. In fact, that would have represented the second worst team field goal percentage performance for 2013-14.
The three point shooting (16.7%) and free throw percentage (65.5%) were equally disturbing. Only three Pelicans surpassed the 50 FG% barrier and two of them were reserves. The Grizzlies didn't fare much better as evidenced by their 40.8 FG%, 28.6 3FG% and 73.0 FT%. The Pelicans defense, when the bigs aren't forced too far from the hoop, is proving to be a thing. (More on that later.)
Despite the horrendous shooting, the Pelicans remained in the game until the final few minutes. Their highlight came early in the third quarter, where after scoring 33 points in the first 24 minutes, they tacked on 12 in a little over the first 3 minutes of the 2nd half.
Briefly, they managed to take the lead, but a well-timed technical foul by Dave Joerger seemed to put an end to that. For the rest of the quarter, the Pelicans only scraped together 11 points. More telling was the fact that 20 personal fouls were whistled against New Orleans in the final 20 minutes of the game. In what was a physical game throughout, the referees suddenly had a change of heart.
All these calls ensured the Pelicans wouldn't get another chance to demonstrate their superior speed and athleticism. Not that it would have likely mattered -- in the first half, they had 0 fast break points. After blitzing the Grizzlies for an average of about 11 fast break points a contest a season ago, New Orleans managed a miserable 2 in 48 minutes. A team strength was nowhere to be found.
- Anthony Davis came crashing back down to earth: 14 points, 8 rebounds and 1 rebound/steal. Granted no one should have expected he'd continue his incredible jaw-dropping stats for the season, but in my opinion, Zach Randolph bested our guy. In general, the Grizzlies seemed to really be focused tonight, but Randolph exemplified it more than anyone else. He appeared to have taken last year's defeats to heart and came prepared to fight our uber-speciman power forward. He smartly used his frame to keep Davis' reach away from his shot attempts, continually beat AD to his left and hustled more on both ends of the floor than I've seen in some time. Davis learned a valuable lesson tonight -- he's going to start taking everyone's best shot any given night.
- Omer Asik had a miserable offensive night. Marc Gasol blocked his shot at the rim three times and he missed a host of other easy attempts too. However, too many fans will overlook his defensive impact. In the first half, I feel Asik took Memphis out of their gameplan in running the offense through Gasol. Asik limited his touches by fronting him and only allowing him to catch the ball well outside of his preferred range.
- Eric Gordon continues to shoot and hit nothing. Through 3 games, he's sitting at 25%, but continues to get a ton of run -- 37 minutes tonight. Interestingly, Austin Rivers looked to be much more effective yet Monty refused to go with the hotter player down the stretch. Maybe Monty believes in the fallacy that is generally associated with small sample sizes?
- Tyreke Evans had 21 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He even made 2 more three pointers. However, I can't get that steal, almost mishandled dribble then a missed wide-open layup out of my mind. Have to write it off as proof it wasn't going to be our night.
- Speaking of bad shooting, Ryan Anderson had a night to forget: 2-14 from the floor and 0-7 from deep. His boxscore stats say awful, but it was disconcerting to see just how poor his shot attempts looked to the eye. They resembled very little to the sweet shot we're all accustomed to seeing. Have to hope there isn't anything bothering him physically.
- Through three games, the Pelicans have put the the ball through the hoop 39.1% of the time. It's getting close to the point of it becoming a concern considering the offense only managed a 43.9 FG% in seven preseason games.
- The Pelicans held one of the best teams in the paint the last several years to 36 points in the paint (we had 42). The hard-hedging by our bigs wasn't nearly as evident as it was against Dallas.
- The Grizzlies had a 43.4 eFG%. For the year, the Pelicans defense is now allowing a 46.6 eFG% (51.5% last season). While the offense sputters, the defense is looking like the real thing. Only the defensive rebounding is still needing improvement.
Bottom line - you're not going to win an NBA game shooting 33.7%. Nitpicking Monty Williams after a total team failure isn't fair; however, it would have behooved the Pelicans to play with better pace, gotten Anthony Davis more touches and considered giving Rivers a few more minutes than Gordon.
Tomorrow, the Pelicans come home and face the Charlotte Hornets. Be sure to catch David's preview and join us in the gamethread. The dam that is our offense has to burst sometime!