Without Anthony Davis for the second game in a row, the New Orleans Pelicans still should beat this Los Angeles Lakers team. The Lakers are that bad, and the Pelicans have been competitive without Davis against the Indiana Pacers and streaking Los Angeles Clippers. Both teams are bad, but New Orleans at least has hypothetical talent to succeed in the NBA.
The first half was hideous. Both the Lakers and Pelicans field awful defenses and still could muster just 79 points, combined! Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson got off to hot starts in the first quarter before cooling off significantly in the second. Lou Williams kept the margin close without making a shot from the floor; all seven of his first half points came at the free throw line.
Kobe Bryant logged 15 minutes and settled for some absolutely horrendous shots. On multiple occasions he passed up a relatively open catch-and-shoot opportunity with a pump fake, a couple jab steps, and then (!) settled for a challenged shot without taking a dribble. Only Kobe can do that. It is irresponsible offense. I was hoping to see the new and improved Kobe who has played well recently. Unfortunately Bryant was ruled out after the first half with more Achilles soreness.
The highlight for me tonight was the organ. Around the nine minutes mark in the third quarter the organist launched into a rendition of the Game of Thrones theme while the officials discussed an out-of-bounds call. As the Lakers began to inbound the ball he (or she) seamlessly transitioned into "Let's Go Lakers". That's just awesome. Organs make arenas awesome. If the Pelicans can't have one they need a house band (a brass band?) or something unique. The SKC experience is lacking on the musical front and being in New Orleans that is inexcusable.
Eric Gordon flipped a switch in the third quarter with a couple really strong takes to the basket. Toss in a three and a long two and at one point Gordon scored nine of 11 points. Still not enough to build a big lead as the Pelicans could not stop sending the Lakers to the foul line.
Alvin Gentry wanted to play small as the game clock melted away in the fourth. Norris Cole, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Alonzo Gee, and Ryan Anderson was his lineup and I did not like it one bit. Rather than space and move New Orleans slowed it down and went to repeated ball screens by Anderson to create post ups if the Lakers switched. It is running an offense with the hope of creating step back jumpers. I don't blame Anderson nearly as much as Gentry for poorly utilizing Ryno.
The defense with Anderson as the "rim protector" was exactly what you'd expect. The offense had a few blips of competency, largely out of time outs when the Pelicans ran set plays. The last real possession looked like a set up for a Tyreke-Ryno pick and roll. Evans rejected the screen down three and elected to settle for a step back of his own making. Hideous.
Pelicans lose 95-91 and the tank rolls on.
One thing to note is the Pelicans pick and roll defense has made a pretty significant change. Big men are not sagging back nearly as far on screens set above the break and New Orleans is even trapping a number of plays by stringing the play out to the hash.
This has been a gradual process but that schematic change was most apparent last Friday when the Pelicans forced a metric ton of mistakes by the Pacers. It looks MUCH better than when the Pelicans attempted a more aggressive pick and roll scheme in 2013-14. But the Lakers are terrible. We'll see if this change in approach continues to yield results against better opponents.