New Orleans made a franchise-best 16 three-pointers at nearly a 60% clip and they needed every single one of them. Tyreke Evans made a career-best 5, missing one lone attempt. Jrue Holiday knocked down 5 of 7, including a make from half court at the first quarter buzzer. Dante Cunningham made both of his looks, and Anthony Davis made 1 of 3, a shot that bounced off the rim, then the backboard, before rolling in much like a free throw.
Joel Meyers said it best in his post-game comments. In essence, the Pelicans need to save tonight's stat sheet because it's not going to happen all that often. Considering New Orleans won by a mere two points over a below .500 Washington club that was missing a number of key players including Bradley Beal and Nene Hilario, that's potentially not promising for the future.
The problem is the Pelicans remain laden with holes and the recent days off did nothing to alleviate the latest issues.
- Omer Asik continues to disappoint, and often Alexis Ajinca isn't head and shoulders better. The Pelicans need to find a solution because Anderson and Davis playing 48 minutes are not an option.
- The defense continues to suffer breakdowns, whether giving up uncontested layups or three-pointers. For instance, the Wizards enjoyed 50 uncontested shot attempts Friday night. 50 of their 80 looks. Yeesh!
- Anthony Davis sometimes plays to the level of his competition, or worse allows defenders to dictate his spots. He should have steamrolled Jared Dudley, a 6'7'' small forward, but shockingly settled for too many perimeter jumpers.
- Tyreke Evans dribbled and dribbled like it was last season when Monty Williams didn't have a problem with that.
This last point really bothers me. It's as though Evans purposefully refused to swing the ball on any of his possessions. He knows full well Gentry wants the team's ball movement to improve, but it was as though he was adamant to not make that happen. Fortunately for the Pelicans, his shot resembled an ignited Flame Thrower, but the world knows he can't count on that moving forward.
Following the game, Alvin Gentry stated he would have liked for New Orleans to have moved the ball better. Indeed, 21 assists on 39 made field goals is not a good ratio. This was never more evident than when Ish Smith was on the court. In his 15 minutes of action, the Pelicans had 9 assists. In the other 33 minutes, the team only managed 12 assists.
During the 4th quarter, the Pelicans trailed by 9, cut it to 2, then minutes later were down 7 again. Each time, Smith was the spark plug to bring the team back. Thankfully, Gentry took note as he stated that when Ish entered, he was primarily responsible for changing the tempo. Gentry wants to play fast, keep opponents guessing, and currently Ish Smith is the only one that can make that happen.
Going forward, he'll hopefully see his role increase and at the expense of Norris Cole. Smith's Net Rating for the game was +19.5, Cole's -25.5. And this isn't a one game sample size. Looking at any metric, Norris Cole has been well below average, and until he finds his game, he doesn't deserve major minutes.
- The starting lineup needs to change. Entering tonight's contest, Evans-Gordon-Gee-Davis-Ask have been putrid.
Pelicans starting Evans, Gordon, Gee, Davis, Asik. That lineup is posting a -13.7 net rating.— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) December 12, 2015
Following halftime, Ajinca replaced Asik, but I don't think Alvin Gentry should stop there. Evans-Gordon-Gee do not work either, not for a desired uptempo offense. For instance, Evans had the slowest pace of any Pelican outside of Asik and Ajinca. I would like to see Holiday or perhaps even Smith replace one of the two starting guards.
- I've already expressed my disappointment in Davis, but two things would help him moving forward. One, throw post-ups out the window. Either let him catch the ball on the perimeter and give him a chance to face-up his defender or have him on the move: off screens, off pick-and-rolls and lots of cuts through the paint area. I honestly can't remember the last time he caught a pass off a lob and threw it down with authority.
Two, have Davis crash the offensive glass. In the game's first 13 minutes, he had 4 offensive rebounds to help keep the Pelicans even with the Wizards on the scoreboard. Davis' best attribute is still his athleticism, and for as long as he continues to have issues with his motor, it's in the coaching staff's best interest to get Davis flying around the rim early in games. My theory is that this will help jumpstart his activity levels. Hey, it's worth a shot.
- Jrue Holiday played 26:44, exactly one second less than a season high against the Golden State Warriors back in October. As I stated in the preview, he has been playing well of late and tonight was no different. A reduction or perhaps even an elimination of restrictions have to be on the horizon.
- Speaking of the Warriors, they improved their record to 24-0 with a double-OT win against the Celtics. Interestingly, they were the last team to make 16 three-pointers in a game and lose. They made an identical 16 of 27 three-pointers, but lost nearly two years ago to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Pelicans will face the Chicago Bulls tomorrow to kick off an important 5-game road trip. A miserable showing could lead to personnel changes, or a strong showing could help them reduce their 4.5 game deficit to the 8th seeded Utah Jazz. Look for Quentin's preview and recaps tomorrow!