In today's pre-game comments, Monty claimed the jury is still out on whether Tyreke Evans is best suited as a starter or reserve on this team because of Ryan Anderson's absence. He claimed that without Anderson's floor spacing abilities, Evans numbers as a reserve might have suffered as an extra big has often met him at the basket.
Yet, it doesn't seem to be a problem to surround Evans at the start of games with Al-Farouq Aminu and Greg Stiemsma, or more aptly, continue to give minutes to the Unholy Trio. Oh, they remain as awful as ever. Last 10 games, last 66 minutes, a NetRtg of -37.0.
Never mind the fact that other capable shooters do exist on this team. Or disregard the statistics Evans has put up as a starter, despite the flawed rotations. And ignore the bond that is growing before everyone's eyes between Reke and our franchise player.
Yes, there was a game played tonight and the Pelicans lost, but it struck me more meaningful to first examine our coach's mindset and actions. There is no doubt Monty understands Evans needs to be surrounded by shooters, to give him the space he needs to operate in the paint. However, he has defiantly refused to make it a priority whereby making the necessary adjustments. Why? My best guess is he still clings onto some false hope that Aminu at SF and Steamer at C give this team the best chance defensively to carry out his strategy. That our offense will come from our defense. But there is one enormous problem: the combination of Aminu and Stiemsma are not only lousy on offense but just as pathetic on the other end of the floor.
This is what Pelican fans have to look forward to next season. There is a 99.9% chance Monty Williams will return as the head coach this coming Fall and with it, his system. Where it's more important to plug square pegs into round holes rather than react to a given roster. To dismiss statistics that scream bloody murder.
As for what transpired on the hard court, the Unholy Trio lived up to their billing. Out of the King's first 9 shot attempts, they made 8 of them. They were in the bonus with 3:57 remaining of the first quarter. Fortunately, the Kings quickly cooled and the Pelicans went on a fantastic run. Outside of Alexis Ajinca, the bench was marvelous as they tallied 25 first half points (Kings only 4). Jeff Withey was blocking shots, Anthony Morrow scoring baskets and Austin Rivers dropping dimes. With 4 minutes until halftime, the Pelicans were up 6. Just 8 minutes earlier, they had been down 7.
Well, that was as good as it was going to get. Right before intermission, the unimaginative offense ended in a poor Brian Roberts attempt, and then he incredulously fouled a Ray McCallum desperation shot to beat the buzzer. What might have been a 6 point lead was 2.
The third quarter was all DeMarcus Cousins -- he scored 16 points in 9 minutes. On one possession, he had an And-1 opportunity but missed the FT. Not to worry, he grabbed his own miss and put it back in. By the time he sat down, the Kings had turned their deficit into a 10 point lead. And once again, the Unholy Trio put the opponent into the bonus early, this time with 4:16 remaining on the clock.
Reggie Evans or, if you prefer, the referees gave the Pelicans one more chance. With 1:05 of the third, Evans leaned hard into a shot and Anthony Davis caught an elbow to the face. It didn't seem all that intentional live, but when the referees witnessed the brutality of it on replay and probably recalled Evans penchant for contact, they called a flagrant two. An automatic ejection. Two free throws by AD and a Morrow three pointer cut the lead to 4.
Momentum swing, right? Nope, not today. Just as in the previous quarter, the offense sputtered in the final frame. Then when you add Ray McCallum scoring 8 consecutive points, ballgame.
- It was nice to see Anthony Davis return but he didn't look like the same guy from just several games ago. 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks is nothing to sneeze at, but the combination of Evans and Cousins slowed he and his gimpy ankle enough.
- Anthony Morrow poured in 23 points and 4 treys on 9-13 from the field. Shooters shoot and tonight it was going in.
- Tyreke Evans stat line, including 15 points, had little positive effect. A down game for sure.
- Greg Stiemsma and Alexis Ajinca combined for 8 fouls, 4 points and 1 rebound in 22+ minutes of action.
- Jeff Withey went a perfect 4-4 from the field for 8 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks (new career high).
- Austin Rivers only had 6 points but did add 9 dimes.
- Darius Miller played close to 29 minutes, took 4 shots and made 3 of them. Yep, shoot the ball more!
- Pelicans were out-rebounded 47-30 (15-3 offensive) but the worst of it came in the 2nd half.