Before the start of the game, Dell Demps presented Anthony Davis with his All-Star jersey.
As for the game, it's not so much that the Pelicans got off to a slow start, rather, the Pacers just had a lot more early field goal attempts. 3 minutes into it, they were 4 of 6 and held a 6 point edge. Tyreke Evans tried to help New Orleans keep pace with another patented quick start of 6 points, but it didn't matter, as soon thereafter, the Pels stopped scoring altogether. They went over 4 minutes without a single point until Luke Babbitt splashed a three to make it a 24-12 deficit.
By the time the first quarter came to an end, the Pacers had a 32-18 advantage. David West paved the way with 11 points including a perfect 5 for 5 from the floor. As a team, Indiana had a monstrous FG% edge: 61.9% vs. 38.9%.
In the second quarter, Dell Demps gave viewers a respite from the awful basketball through an interview with Jennifer Hale. He claimed to be happy with the team and felt the Pelicans will make a playoff run after the All-Star break, provided they're healthy. Pray that he's right!
Back to the game, the Pelicans continued to have problems putting the ball through the hoop in the second frame. In nearly the first five minutes, they had made one lousy field goal. At the 7:40 mark, the Pacers had a 40-22 advantage and this one looked to be over well before halftime.
The Pelicans did happen to go on a bit of a run (10-2), but they shot themselves in the foot with 3 straight turnovers and the Pacers stretched a 15 point lead to 22 at halftime. In nearly all categories, the Pacers had a significant edge: field goals made (21-13), assists (15-7), rebounds (23-16), threes (7-3) and turnovers (5-11).
Out of intermission, Eric Gordon started things off with an immediate three, but it was a mirage. The Pacers increased their lead to 29 before even getting to the halfway mark of the third quarter....Hence, there really isn't any more need in detailing the play-by-play action of this one.
Instead, let's talk about a few other things.
- Hindsight is 20/20 but tonight would have been a good time to start Quincy Pondexter at SF. Bless his heart, but Dante Cunningham put the Pelicans in a massive bind tonight as his man (usually C.J. Miles) played 8-10 feet off of him. It really felt like New Orleans was playing 4 on 5. In the future, if one of our offensively minded starters are sidelined (notably AD), it's not a good idea to start Omer Asik and Cunningham.
- This is especially true because the defense was still nowhere to be found. The Pacers started hot and stayed hot throughout the entire game. If we can't slow down the opponent, Monty should look to utilize the Pelicans good offensive firepower more often. We're more than halfway through the season, but it's time to accept the offense is our best chance in getting the team to the postseason.
- It's normal for any team to struggle when it's missing at least one key cog, but it would be nice if the remaining group of Pelicans would have an alternate gameplan. Both Evans and Gordon were stymied all night because the Pacers were able to focus solely on them and their penetration ability without Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday or Davis to help space the floor. More individual cuts/rolls or more ball movement would be advisable next time to help alleviate the pressure off of the remaining healthy core members.
- After a 31 point explosion against the Jazz, Eric Gordon cooled immensely. He didn't score his field goal until 35 seconds before halftime. For the game, he finished 2 for 10 and just 6 points.
- His backcourt mate, Tyreke Evans, wasn't any better. After starting 2-2, Tyreke only made 1 of his next 8 field goals. He finished with 8 points and 6 assists.
- For the second straight game, Luke Babbitt impressed enough on both ends of the floor. So much so that I'm not sure Monty should continue to bench him in favor of Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter when the Pelicans are specifically in need of scoring from the wing. Tonight, he scored a game high 15 and added 6 rebounds and 3 threes.
- Dante Cunningham went 0-3 in 22 minutes. Over his last 4 games, he's 3 for 17 from the floor. That's worse than Asik guys. As I mentioned earlier, we can't have two duds on offense, especially when Anthony Davis or several other key players are missing from the typical rotation.
- Meanwhile, Quincey Pondexter showed off some nice aggressiveness and a nice variety of offense. I counted at least one jumper, cut, drive and floater. I think it's high time he enters the starting lineup, or at the very least, starts seeing 28+ minutes every game.
- After a slow start, Alexi Ajinca emerged as the Pelicans best starter on the night with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
- Toney Douglas received more playing time than Jimmer Fredette yet again, and he did a fine job: 14 points and 7 assists. Defensively he did a good job of pestering the opposition, and on offense, he was able to breakdown the Pacers defense multiple times by getting into the paint. During the game, Jen Hale commented that Monty is taking a liking to him. There seems to be a decent chance he may be kept for the rest of the season?
- Jeff Withey got some extended run but he failed to do anything until garbage time. For as much as we're lately been reading about how the coaches having been working with Davis on all the individual parts of his game these last several years, it's sad that there doesn't appear to be anything novel with Withey since his first day.
As I feared in the preview, Indiana ended up being much too strong for this decimated Pelican squad. Fortunately, the team will have an extended period of rest with the All-Star festivities set to take place this weekend. Entering the break, the Pelicans sit 10th in the standings, only 1 game above .500. However, they will remain well within striking distance of the Suns and Thunder, who are just ahead of them. If Holiday/Davis/Anderson can come back strong, it is quite conceivable New Orleans can go on a nice run. They'll need to if they still have playoff aspirations.