Yet another game resulting in another poor loss. When a team's record sits at 1-9, it means a lot of things have gone wrong, and today's matinee was a perfect microcosm. After 17 exhibition and preseason games and a countless number of practices, it's worrisome the team continues to find amateurish ways to lose a game.
In his post-game comments, Alvin Gentry remarked that the Pelicans competitive effort isn't up to par and that the team needs to do a better job in closing out games. "We have to be able to stop people down the stretch...It's on the coaches and that's something we need to correct."
That's admirable, but we're 10 games into the season and effort shouldn't remain one of the biggest issues, yet here we are. During the first half, the Knicks were allowed a ridiculous 51 shots! A 9-0 advantage on the offensive glass was the main culprit as New York scored 15 of their 42 points on second chances. For the game, the Knicks totaled 19 second chance points to NONE for the Pelicans. I'm sorry but that's all heart or a lack thereof. In an offense that advocates movement, it's unacceptable to not come up with one hustle play that directly leads to points.
As soon as the Pelicans remedied the Knicks offensive rebounding in the second half, another problem cropped up: turnovers, and mindless ones at that. New Orleans had 18 of them for the game (twice as many as the Knicks), yet it wasn't due to a New York opportunistic defense that resulted in a high number of steals. Unfortunately, the Pelicans really aided their tally of 8 steals on plays like the following that occurred with 9:07 remaining in the 4th quarter.
Then there were a number of head scratching plays that ALMOST resulted in a horrible turnover. Take this one that occurred moments before Ryan Anderson's pass to no one above.
At the start of the road trip, the Pelicans had trouble knowing where the out-of-bounds line sat in Atlanta. They stepped on it or were simply standing out-of-bounds at least four different times. Their 19 turnovers completely wiped out a torrid display of shooting that at one point had built a 12-point lead against the Hawks.
In Toronto, the Pelicans allowed the hapless shooting Raptors to remain in the game via 16 free throw attempts in the first half. After halftime, the defense collapsed as weakly as dominoes, and it progressively worsened as the Pelicans missed shot after shot. An 82.9 offensive rating coupled with a 130.9 defensive rating told the whole story.
9 losses versus 1 lone win. The mistakes have been many, the bright spots few. So much so, I'm not altogether confident this team is going to take off once most of the walking wounded return. Omer Asik has been a bigger liability on offense than anything we saw under Monty. Ditto for Alexis Ajinca all around the court. Alonzo Gee, Luke Babbitt and Dante Cunningham are all 1-trick ponies. Jrue Holiday mixes good performances with bad ones, and it's a trend I feel is destined to continue until he is restriction-free.
The strongly opinionated pessimists have claimed the personnel have never made sense from day 1 and that the playoffs are already in the rear view mirror. Meanwhile, optimists state that bad injury luck has been the biggest debilitating factor, and once several key components return, everything will fall into place. I honestly believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle with the only question remaining is in which direction it leans. I guess we'll soon find out.
- Anthony Davis returned and his numbers screamed he's every bit of an All-star. He scored the ball efficiently and made several great individual defensive plays, recording three blocks on Kristaps Porzingis and one on Carmelo Anthony. However, his help defense, especially functioning as the team's center, often still remains a detriment.
As soon as Carmelo got by Dante Cunningham, Davis needed to meet him outside of the paint. Guarding Kevin Seraphin, who is nearly standing out-of-bounds and behind the backboard, is useless when one of the game's best scorers is on his way to the rim largely unabated. Can't wait until Darren Erman and the rest of the coach staff to fix this!
- Had the Pelicans had the Jrue Holiday that appeared in Toronto on Friday, they probably would have won this game. He started the game too passively and then made several key mistakes. New Orleans needs for him to get himself going when he's on the floor because they don't have him for long enough.
- After showing a glimmer of hope in Toronto, Alexis Ajinca went back to being unplayable. For the first time this season, I really had to question a Gentry substitution when he re-inserted Ajinca in the game at the start of the 4th quarter after a forgettable 3rd minutes earlier. Subsequently, Ajinca picked up two offensive fouls resulting obviously in two turnovers.
- Omer Asik, what have you done with the real Omer Asik? He didn't pick up his first rebound of the game until right before his night was over in the 3rd quarter.
- Alonzo Gee had a couple of nice steals and moments of other good team defense, but his offense, yeesh! His outside perimeter shot remains missing in action. He is now 1 for 10 from three-point range, and if that doesn't change soon, he can't be on the floor for 20+ minutes a game.
- Two plays stuck out for me regarding Dante Cunningham. THIS wonderful block on Sasha Vujacic (that wasn't officially recorded!) and this drive from the perimeter.
Why can't see more of this from you Dante? QUIT BEING SO PASSIVE!
- For the first time this season, the Pelicans held an opponent to less than 100 points. Their defense really locked down the Knicks through the first 3 quarters; thus, it made the outcome all the sadder.
Knicks shoot 24% from three, 40% from the field and 67% from the line. But lead the Pelicans by 3 heading into the fourth.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) November 15, 2015
Up next, the wounded birds fly home and will host the Nuggets on Tuesday. Denver is one of the early surprises on the year with a 5-5 record; a roster that wasn't expected to do much is currently sitting inside the playoff picture. That's certainly a rosier picture than the present one for New Orleans.