The game started the best way possible. The Pelicans made a three-pointer off a quick shuffle from their horns formation on their very first possession. Then followed 3 consecutive steals resulting in another 7 points, propelling the Pelicans into an early 10-0 start that they maintained for the rest of the game.
To be honest, there wasn't a lot of bad stuff one could write about in this game. If you watched this contest, you should have realized the potential of this team. They won every quarter but the fourth -- take out the last 5:26 of the game when the shock troopers were finally sent it -- and New Orleans won every quarter.
To me, the biggest takeaway from this game is this figure: 100.5.
That's how many points the team allowed per 100 possession today. It wasn't just about creating a lot of turnovers (as it was when the Pelicans had a good defensive rating against Orlando). But the team actually played good defense. Whether that was a product of playing the Mavericks or not, I don't know.
The Pelicans allowed a 57.8% at the rim. Although it's above the league average of 54.7%, it was significantly better than the 60+% we had allowed in the past 6 losses. The 3-point defense was noticeably better as well. After allowing 30% of opponent's attempts to come from behind the arc and they connected at a 36.7% clip, New Orleans allowed Dallas to only shoot 5-20 from deep. That's sizable improvement.
Let's quickly review the keys of the game from the preview.
1. Communication and Purpose on Defense
As I've said above, the defense was solid from start to the 43rd minute mark. Switches and ball screen defense were done right, and ball denial (a key thing that was missing in the first few games) was great, doing just enough to disrupt the flow of Dallas' offense but not too much that they were susceptible to backdoor cuts. Overall, I like the defensive game plan they had in this game.
The only disconcerting part was the post defense. I know the numbers behind post scoring (barely cracking 1 point per possession on good players) but I don't like it. Even a long two, if left uncontested, is a good shot for an opponent. The same could be said for a Dirk Nowitzki or Wesley Matthews mismatch post-up. At one point, they scored 6 straight points from the post. The Pelicans adjusted, sending a bluffer wing (a wing who bluffs a double to get the postup player to pickup his dribble), and the post became less and less of a problem (except for when it's Dirk). Regardless, tonight's result can be considered a good stepping stone for the team.
2. Pound the Offensive Glass
The Pelicans won the battle on the glass, but it wasn't really that big of a deal as I thought it would. The Pelicans hit too many shots (gasp!) which meant far fewer offensive rebounding opportunities and their importance to the outcome of the game.
3. Anthony Freaking Davis
Davis was playing well, scoring basket after basket on well designed sets to get him free space, especially in the second quarter when he missed only 1 basket in 7 tries. The news after the half was a bummer, though, as it was reported he had a hip contusion, and as a precautionary measure, he wouldn't play in the second half. I love the decision, but I don't like that we actually had to make the decision. It's the gift that just keeps on giving.
Other Game Notes:
- Eric Gordon took a LOT of threes. Like a lot a lot. 13 in all and most of them were off kickouts. I really wish he could be a little more selective with his 3-point selection. Makes discussions like this from Tom Ziller and Paul Flannery more relevant, doesn't it?
- Gordon should take a cue from Ryan Anderson who only took 4 3-point shots, made 2 and then made the Mavs pay from his signature pump fake to spin layups, postup fadeaway Js and his spin layups from the post. It was a commendable effort by the Flamethrower for carrying the team in the second half after having the pressure of starting in place of Davis. Anderson scored 19 points in the second half, and as Joel Meyer said on the broadcast, "HE DIRKED DIRK!"
- Nice to finally see Asik on the court. His impact is subtle but very important. His defense was obviously helpful, especially in the paint. But what's get lost about the value of Asik are his screens -- such rock-hard screens that free his teammates off curls or ball screens.
I don't know what I missed more, Asik screens or Asik defense.— David Fisher (@usnfish) November 11, 2015
The next game is against the Hawks today in Atlanta. Will Anthony Davis play or will Jeff Teague be suspended as presumed on social media? If things fall right, dare I say 2-6?