Whether they had a hand in their face or not, the Pelicans were unable to to dissuade absolutely anything the Clipper starting five wished to try. Paul-Redick-Barnes-Griffin-Jordan combined to shoot 34 of 54 from the floor. That comes out to 63%. From the three-point line, their starters made 13 bombs at a 56.5% clip.
Jordan was getting dunks. Griffin was converting from everywhere, including plenty of times against Anthony Davis. Most every Clipper was NBA-Jam-hot from the perimeter. And Chris Paul might have had the easiest lay-up of his career. Not a single Pelican even managed to get a foot inside the paint area despite CP3 starting this drive from beyond the 3 point line.
However, my favorite defensive break down occurred at the 9:02 mark of the final frame. Jamal Crawford swung the ball from one wing to the other to J.J. Redick. He proceeded to drive unencumbered from the three point line all the way to the rim. It took just one pass and a drive by your slower than average SG to get a clean look at the rim. Fail.
Defensive breakdowns happen, but they shouldn't to this extent. Yes, the Clippers shot an eye-popping 52.9% on contested looks vs. 56.8% on uncontested ones. However, Los Angeles had 44 uncontested attempts versus only 25 contested ones. The vast majority of looks by Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick and Chris Paul were uncontested. When you leave their three best perimeter oriented starters open that many times, playing in front of their home crowd, things will very likely go horribly wrong.
Going forward, the Pelicans need to do a better job of contesting each shot. For example, regarding Chris Paul's first three looks from beyond the arc, Holiday gave him too much airspace. For whatever reason, Jrue was slow each time, almost to the point of being lazy, in closing out. Smartly, CP3 made us pay.
Choose a Path
Honestly, there are two ways to look at tonight's shortcomings. One, for the second game in a row, the Pelicans defense was soft and allowed the opponent to get on a roll like an avalanche. The opposition was quicker, hungrier and made the Pelicans look like a third-rate team. Playoffs, do we really want to talk about the playoffs?
On the flip side, it's been 2 games. Perhaps against the 2 best teams in the West. Less than a week ago, we beat Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder. Earlier in the season, we eked out a win in San Antonio.
All we've learned in the first 1/4 of the season is that our team has potential, but for the time being, remains rather inexperienced. Forgetting Omer Asik for a second, the core of Holiday-Evans-Anderson-Davis has played together only 33 times in regular season games. Is it fair to expect solid 48 minute performances night in and night out?
- Anthony Davis surpassed his scoring average by putting up 26 points, but surprisingly he did little else in the box score (3 REB, 1 BLK). In the FSNO post-game show, I observed David Wesley talking to Joel Meyers about the topic of Anthony Davis and touches again. Normally, I agree with a lot of what these two fine NBA minds have to say, but I felt they were off base tonight. AD had 15 shots and 9 free throw attempts. Most of it came in the 2nd half, after the score was tied at 54 at halftime. Coming into this season, the topic of Anthony Davis and his correct number of touches was a relevant discussion. However, it's not something we here at The Bird Writes feel is that problematic anymore. For an excellent breakdown, check out David's article posted earlier today.
- Luke Babbitt started again and he was the sole reason the Pelicans deficit wasn't larger after the first quarter. He put up 9 big points on 3 consecutive makes from three-point land. After that, he cooled somewhat, but it was puzzling he didn't end up with more than 18 minutes of playing time. Especially considering John Salmons saw the same amount and Austin Rivers surpassed them both.
- Omer Asik had a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) but I didn't care for his offensive presence. DeAndre Jordan was playing so far off of him that the coaching staff should have rectified the situation. Either get the ball-handler driving into the lane to dump off several passes Asik's way or remove him from the game. For instance, Tyreke Evans didn't have a prayer tonight of posting good efficiency because Jordan was shadowing him the entire time in the lane.
- Ryan Anderson started cold but managed to finish strongly with 16 points. It was disconcerting though to see him continue to struggle with uncontested three point shots.
- Gal Mekel made his debut and ended up being what many claimed he would be: a good pass-first point guard with a suspect shot. He was 0-4 from the floor but had 6 assists in just 11 minutes of action. The potential of positive contribution is there though. When he first entered the game, Rivers continued to run the offense. After a couple of failed possessions, Mekel took the lead and the offense started to click rather well. He played a solid role in the Pelicans nice 2nd quarter turnaround.
- Outside of 2 missed free throws, Alexis Ajinca had 4 points and 7 rebounds in just 9 minutes of action.
- Dante Cunningham made a couple of nice defensive plays but his stat line looked eerily similar to that of Lance Thomas. In 21 minutes of action, he had just 3 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist.
- Tyreke Evans had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists and Austin Rivers 8, 6 and 6 but their contributions just didn't feel all that meaningful.
Up next, the Pelicans come right back to the same arena, but will face the lesser of the two Los Angeles teams. However, this isn't to say the Lakers will be a cakewalk, not with the way the Pelicans have shown themselves during this road trip. Let's hope their bounce-back capabilities return in back-to-backs.