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Game Review: Pellies fall due to defensive stumbles and Isaiah Thomas

Ugh. Pelicans drop an easy one to Boston.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Bass scored 17 points with six rebounds and Isaiah Thomas scored 27 points off the bench as the Boston Celtics defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 104-98. In defeat, Anthony Davis finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans. With a loss, the Pelicans fall to one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.

Disappointed. With Oklahoma City losing to Chicago yesterday, the thought and expectation leading up to tonight’s game was that the Pelicans, despite the loss of Anthony Davis for a short period of time and Jrue Holiday for an extended period of time, were going to get that final seed, at least for a night. Didn’t happen.

Tonight was a night where I believed the defense failed them. The Celtics were getting a ton of easy baskets, thanks to some pretty good ball movement. Evan Turner and Marcus Smart both did a good job of finding their bigs in the paint. Kelly Olynyk struggled and couldn’t finish (missed his first eight shots out there), but Brandon Bass had some success out there. Bass got a couple easy finishes at the rim, as well as some mid range jumpers.

Another weird, but interesting wrinkle for the Celtics did was have Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko out there together. Both are mobile wings, who usually play a bit bigger than you think.  It made for a rather long defensive unit on the perimeter. Both weren’t dominating out there - although Crowder had 11 points, 9 rebounds and four steals - but it made for some interesting basketball to watch.

On the Pelicans end, it was Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. I promise I will stop swooning over Gordon, but I just love what he brings to the table. While he didn’t run the offense in spurts like he usually does, he used his shiftiness to get to the basket and get open looks beyond the arc. As a result, Gordon finished with 20 points.

I’ve ran out of things to say about Davis. Let’s just say he’s very, very good. There were a couple fuzzy defensive possessions out there in this game. In just his second game back, I’m sure he’ll tighten those up. Otherwise, he's a monster that can catch and finish at the rim, hit the jumper, block jumpers and sky over opponents for rebounds. Ho hum.

I’m also getting to the point where I struggle to say things about Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik. I like Asik. I think he’s valuable to this team. However, there are numerous possessions (in numerous games) where he’s just bad. Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re going to get from him and that both scares and bothers me, especially when the Pellies have to pay him this offseason. I’m firmly in the pay Asik camp, but if the Pelicans decided to move on, I wouldn’t be shocked.

In this game, however, Asik played a solid game. He converted on his shot attempts, he both grabbed rebounds and cleared out some space for Davis to get some additional boards and he made space with some good screens and picks. I don't think this is the quintessential Omer Asik game (I think he can grab some more rebounds, even with Davis gobbling up 14 of them), but it's pretty close, I think.

As for Evans, he was decent. The seven turnovers was a mess, but Smart will do that to you. His defense wasn’t great, but he continues to do a good job of filling out the stat sheet and while his shooting isn’t great, I think being able to do a bit of everything (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block tonight) is undersold.

It’s one of those games where offensively, I think they did a good job. Defensively, they didn’t play poorly, but to their average, and that’s a problem to me. Injuries, so I understand, but I just don’t understand how this team isn’t better on the defensive end. I like the pieces, but they aren’t clicking on defense. One thing that bothered me was just the looks on the defensive end.

Thomas caught fire, but the Celtics as a team got some pretty good looks from beyond the arc. Turner created some good looks and Smart didn't do too bad either. Had they converted on all of their open looks, this would've been a very ugly game. Instead, Isaiah Thomas comes in, hits four of six attempts and raises Boston's three point percentage up. Was unimpressed to see New Orleans' wing players just move out of position and allow some pretty easy looks.

Tonight, the Celtics capitalized on poor defense, hit some shots and plucked a victory from the Pelicans in the blender.

I think I should be harder on this team, but I, uh, can’t. Sorry guys. Here are some notes.

— Hey. I got that "let them shoot threes" thing wrong. My bad. Maybe not my best idea.

— The ups and downs of Norris Cole. Some games, he’ll look like he could be a huge factor for this team on both ends, other nights, he looks barely playable. Isaiah Thomas cooked him at various points throughout the night and it was just tough to watch.

Luke Babbitt saved the bench from getting a F if I was grading them. A couple rainbows from beyond the arc, surprisingly active on the glass and moved the ball a bit. Good job, Luke.

— Still a bit iffy on Pondexter in the starting lineup. He actually wasn’t bad in this game. However, I think his defensive value is a bit overrated. I like him in spurts. Give him 10-20 min, let him run around, hit threes and take that, rather than the 30+ minute runs. That’s just me. The ideal role for him next year is that first wing off the bench and you throw him out there with Davis and Holiday and try to get that defensive at all three levels.

— Davis/Ajinca please. I’m not saying this is secretly Favors/Gobert or Dirk/Chandler, nor is this saying that Davis and Asik can’t work. I just want to see more of it. Give me the look, Monty. Thank you.

— Free Elliot Williams. Free Jeff Withey. Just kidding. I like those guys, but they didn’t play tonight and probably for the best. That said, please come back Ryan Anderson. Get well soon.

Well that stinks. Get the job done tomorrow against Memphis, guys.