Anthony Davis left the game early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. The injury was apparently sustained on this completely innocuous play. Omer Asik was unavailable due to a stomach illness. The remainder of the injured (Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole, Quincy Pondexter, and Kendrick Perkins) remain in suits. The New Orleans Pelicans lack quality players to form a competent NBA lineup for 48 minutes.
However, that simply does not excuse a lack of effort. And tonight, during the first quarter, the Pelicans didn't try hard. The only exception was Dante Cunningham, who only knows one speed. The Nuggets were scoring at will at the rim, collecting far too many offensive rebounds, and generally having their way with the New Orleans defense. At one point both Ryan Anderson and Ish Smith stood under the basket as Cunningham stunted, twice, to try to take away an open three by the Nuggets. Sadly reinforcements never arrived. Worse, his teammates made no attempt to recover.
Lapses are ok. Mistakes are ok. The Pelicans, and truly every NBA team, will have breakdowns. Not trying? That's a different story.
Pelicans' Anthony Davis done for night with left shoulder injury. Apparently sustained on this screen. pic.twitter.com/j4CXyup2dC— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 18, 2015
In the second half Alvin Gentry changed things up and started Alexis Ajinca. Thanks to a scorching second quarter New Orleans improbably recovered from the horrendous start to lead 53-51 at halftime. Ajinca played four minutes, made two jumpers, and collected three personal fouls. The Pelicans were -10 in those four minutes, turning a two point lead into an 65-57 deficit when Ajinca checked out with 7:51 remaining. The margin was still eight points as the quarter ended, with Denver taking an 83-75 lead into the final frame.
In the fourth quarter at one point the Pelicans cut the Nugget lead to 95-90 and had a chance to make a game of it with 5:17 to go. Denver answered with a 13-0 run. Both teams were shooting jump shots. Denver made four straight. New Orleans missed four straight. The Denver shots, two Jameer Nelson pull ups over the taller 6'8" Luke Babbitt, were not in particularly good shots. Two Jrue Holiday shots, both more open and one of the catch and shoot variety, fell short. Good shots missing while poorer shots by the opposition find the net are an occurrence this Pelican team is simply unable to survive.
Ryan Anderson did his best to put the team on his back throughout the contest, pouring in 24 points on 10-17 shooting. Most of his work came inside the arc as he relied heavily on post ups and a Dirk Nowitzki impersonation. Eric Gordon had 19 points of his own on a less efficient 7-17 shooting line.
Denver was led by Jameer Nelson and Danilo Gallinari. Nelson could not miss off the dribble for long stretches of the second half burying a variety of step back jumpers including two threes with a hand in his face. Gallinari abused New Orleans for switching guards onto him, working with confidence on the low block. At one point in the third quarter Ajinca was in position to defend the basket and Gallinari just ran right past the big man for an alley-oop AND a foul since Ajinca felt the need to add in an unnecessary shove on the hip after he was beat.
The status of Anthony Davis for tomorrow's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder has yet to be determined. Considering Jrue Holiday will still be out rest on the second game of a back-to-back New Orleans would do well to avoid rushing Davis back too early. This season is really beginning to spin out of control.
Who wants to talk about Ben Simmons?