The New Orleans Pelicans lost by 4 points for the second straight game, and for the second time this season, at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, a team with an 11-15 record. With each failure, the Pelicans find a new way to lose, but it's usually been for the same reason in the closer contested battles: a lack of execution.
Through 24 games of the season, a legitimate top tiered team in the league would not display ineptitude so consistently and at the most inopportune times on both sides of the floor. It's no mistake that the Pelicans have the league's 2nd worst margin during fourth quarters. If it wasn't for Hinkie's glorious inferno that is the current 76ers, New Orleans would be the low man on totem pole. Even behind the 3-21 Lakers.
In his post-game comments, Alvin Gentry claimed that the team didn't play smart basketball. He had wanted the ball to be in Anthony Davis' hands, but instead Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday decided to seek out three-pointers. One got off a shot while the other was stripped as easily babies are from candy.
Momentum had clearly been with the Pelicans (a 12-4 run) and Davis, a potential MVP candidate in this league, was scorching hot throughout the game. So naturally, he was ignored in crunch time. This alone stinks on so many levels, but while we're at it, the rest of his teammates floundered in their own responsibilities.
Bloody Awful Execution By Both Holiday And Gordon On The Start Of Elevator Play. SMGDMFH https://t.co/WD3mieDC2z— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) December 15, 2015
This is what bad teams do. They find ways to beat themselves. It's not just one player being out of position, missing a shot or crumbling into a turnover. It's multiple mistakes by multiple players. So, for any of those who remain hopeful of a turnaround, look past at how poorly the team executed down the stretch because there came at least a hundred mistakes beforehand that were just as responsible for the loss.
New Orleans had 15 assists tonight on 39 makes against the 24th rated defense in the NBA. That's unacceptable. The players, led by Tyreke Evans, are not buying into the system. They either hold the ball for inordinate periods of time, that would force Mike D'Antoni to roll over in his grave, or opt to play hero ball, forgetting that Kevin Durant, LeBron James or Stephen Curry are not imprinted on the back of their jerseys.
However, Alvin Gentry and the coaching staff appear nearly just as accountable. If ball movement is one of the priorities, why has Ish Smith totaled just 18 minutes in the last two games? Especially after the fact that Gentry lauded him following the win against the Wizards where New Orleans tallied 9 assists in Smith's 15 minutes of action (and 12 in the other 33 minutes). Why does Evans continue to start as the team's point guard when he normally opts to dribble out shot clocks?
There exist so many questions without answers, but one that should no longer be on anyone's mind is the possibility of salvaging the season and making the playoffs. Two starters, Alonzo Gee and Alexis Ajinca, combined for 0 rebounds in 21 minutes. For the sixth time in seven games this month, Eric Gordon, the Pelicans starting shooting guard, failed to have an above average shooting night. As a team, New Orleans shot 35.9% on uncontested field goal attempts and for the 16th time out of 24 games, they were out-rebounded by their opponent.
With each loss, the variables may change but the result remains constant. The coaching staff simplified the defensive concepts in training camp, and demanded pace and ball movement on offense. The players, if they're lucky, have gotten it right less than half the time, looking more like some undisciplined relics executing plays from last season when Monty Williams was at the helm. Much of the personnel do not appear to trust the system or understand it; consequently, they look like mismatched parts the majority of the time. An engine without components built to exact specifications will not run right no matter how much gas you give it.
If the front office remains dedicated to giving Alvin Gentry and his coaching staff a legitimate chance, it's high time Dell Demps starts to disassemble what once looked rather promising. This is a bad basketball team. The programming is now different so the Pelicans need to devise a new proposal because Plan A is a loser. I don't know about you, but I have a particular aversion to seeing an Anthony Davis-led team getting F.U.B.A.R. on a nightly basis.