On Friday the New Orleans Pelicans fell to the Toronto Raptors by the final score of 100-81. Kyle Lowry finished with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals for the Raptors, while Eric Gordon led the Pelicans in scoring with 30 points. Anthony Davis did not play against the Raptors, as he was nursing a bruised hip. The loss pushes New Orleans' record to 1-8 on the season.
Flat isn't the word I'm looking for, but it seemed like no one came out and gave you that performance needed to stabilize four quarters with Anthony Davis out. Outside of Eric Gordon and his impressive work, no Pelican scored over 10 points in the first half and the ball couldn't find the basket, shooting just 38.1 % from the field.
To their credit, it was probably their best defensive half, too. I found the Pelicans doing well closing on shooters, guarding the low-post and keeping any one Raptor to find his groove, outside of Jonas Valanciunas. However, you'd take that because Valanciunas is making shots close to the basket, rather than Lowry or Carroll - who combined to go 3-16 in the first half - tearing you up from beyond the arc.
But they didn't have anyone to sustain and provide anything offensively. The third quarter was one for Jrue Holiday, who looked impressive on both ends of the floor early. I found his defense on Lowry in the pick and roll to be impressive and he even knocked down a couple threes, including one in transition.
But if you remove Holiday's 4-5 performance, the Pelicans went 4-13 in the third. No bueno.
Still, it was the third where the defense just broke down. The Raptors knocked down 13 of their 23 shots in the quarter and looked impressive doing it. Lowry knocked down a couple threes to his credit, but it was DeMar DeRozan who was the big contributor in the quarter. After a 1-6 showing with some truly ghastly shots taken, DeRozan settled down, finishing with six points and four assists in the quarter.
The 2016 free agent (message!) looked good in generating shots and hitting a couple of his own.
The fourth quarter wasn't much worse, as New Orleans clanked their way to a 21% shooting quarter. It wasn't anything great, to say the least. Entering the quarter down the 11, the Pelicans, who weren't shooting well to begin with, didn't play offensively and the Raptors took advantage with another strong shooting quarter (55.6%), earning their seventh victory of the season.
Is this a bad loss? I can't call it. I like to think of it as an expected loss, more than anything. Anthony Davis isn't just the Destroyer of Worlds, but he's also a conduit on the offensive end. Not only can he get you a bucket, but he's an astute passer, capable of creating some shots. You didn't have that against a good overall team and they turned on the jets in the second half. It happens sometimes.
Just a personal comment, I think New Orleans should do something Toronto did in free agency this year. They should attack that middle. Carroll didn't have a fantastic game, but he played good defense and hit some quality baskets. Bismack Biyombo played some excellent interior defense, Cory Joseph was able to attack any of New Orleans' non-Cole point guard and Luis Scola just played hard.
Not a personal attack on the current roster and an understanding of the team missing a bunch of players, but I like what Toronto did this offseason and I like Boston's group of guys. I like Luke Babbitt and Dante Cunningham, but with the cap jumping and several players becoming free agents, I want to see the Pelicans do better on the margins as well as the actual eight man rotation.
Thoughts and prayers by those affected by the tragedy in Paris. Just an awful, awful thing that occurred.
Eric Gordon was really the one player doing much on the offensive end. Sure, he took a bit of a nap in the third quarter, but 30 points, three rebounds and three steals was huge for New Orleans without Davis being available. If I had one thing to quibble about, it would be that I wish he tried to ignite the offense a bit more.
I'm liking what I see from Jrue Holiday. 19 points, three assists and some solid perimeter defense. Part of me wishes the Pelicans can get Cole back soon so that Holiday can rest a little bit for the back half of the season. Still, very good to see Holiday contributing again and looking good. May ye Basketball Gods bless him with 30 (healthy) mpg in the second half of the season.
Ish Smith didn't have a good game shooting the ball (1-9 from the field), but came away with four rebounds, four assists, two secondary assists and two blocks (?!). On Truehoop TV, ESPN's Tom Haberstroh said Smith was first in the league in three-point field goal assists. Never totally impresses you, not a good defender, but he he has a ton of heart, he's always looking to create and I like him.
Ryan Anderson continues to do ok things on the glass. Six rebounds tonight with two assists. Unfortunately, the Pelicans needed a bit more from him offensively and the Raptors had some nice defensive options with him, highlighted by some of the work DeMarre Carroll did against him.
Get well soon, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole.