The New Orleans Pelicans lost a heartbreaker 112-111 to the Houston Rockets. James Harden, a triple-double machine, finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Rockets, while Jrue Holiday led the way for New Orleans, scoring 32 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out nine assists off the bench. Currently, the Pelicans are five games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Consider me, well, an optimist. The Pelicans were playing really well. Offensively, I thought the Pelicans were getting good shots, spacing the floor well and keeping Houston's defense at bay. The Pelican defense was no better than Houston's, but this was before Anthony Davis was getting charged up. He already showed some good energy - fighting for position, occasionally flying in for tip dunks. It was just a matter of time before he was going to get heated up on offense.
Only, it didn't happen.
With 1:00 left in the second quarter, Davis and Tyreke Evans went up for a rebound and the two collided. Davis' face connected with Evans' elbow and the result was Davis sprawling to the floor, holding his face. The Pelicans conceded the basket, but that was the least of their worries, as Davis walked off on his own accord and missed the rest of the game. He was out for a "head injury," but mid-way through the third quarter this tweet arose:
Anthony Davis will not return tonight. Out with a concussion.— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 26, 2016
It was deflating. It turned an interesting half of basketball into another moment to worry about the franchise player, none of it his fault, by the way. It overshadowed the rest of the game and the fact Jrue Holiday played some excellent defense on James Harden. Tyreke Evans would come back and hit a layup and draw a foul, but all the thought was if Davis was ok.
Heading into the third quarter, New Orleans, without their star, went into the tank. An 18-0 run by Houston, led by James Harden and his ability to make things difficult, worked New Orleans, turning a two-point deficit, into a double-digit lead. It looked like New Orleans would slowly go into the night after the Davis injury, and really, who could blame them? Best stretch of basketball and your star goes down.
But the Pelicans didn't fold like a tent. They did the exact opposite. Jrue Holiday, Norris Cole and Ryan Anderson began to knock down some shots and Dante Cunningham assisted on some of the work defensively. However, Toney Douglas came through. That's right, Toney Douglas.
Douglas, usually a last resort, came in and teamed with Cole to create some energy. Both knocked down a handful of corner threes to help New Orleans pull closer and closer to Houston. A Norris Cole three to end the quarter brought New Orleans all the way back and the way Jrue Holiday has been playing, the Pelicans looked to have a chance against the Rockets heading into the fourth.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans came away on the short end of the stick. The Pelicans had a chance to tie the game, but an errant three was off the mark, giving Houston the win.
I almost held this for the game notes, but the Pelicans lost this game because of poor free throw shooting. 14-25 for the game, including 0-8 from their starting wing players! Even Omer Asik knocked one down. Ryan Anderson, Norris Cole and Jrue Holiday hit 12 of the team's 14 free throws, which was good, but everyone else? We're going to need at least 100 a piece before you leave the gym after the next practice.
Overall, I thought the Pelicans played really well. Houston's a tough team to stop, but I was impressed with some of New Orleans' defense. There were times I was puzzled, like Trevor Ariza getting a couple wide open threes and Douglas and/or Cole - both did at one point - leaving Patrick Beverley to hit a three. Three-point defense has to improve against a team like Houston, but I thought the Pelicans can take away some small victories from this one.
Update -- Now we know why Evans was out in the second half
Gentry says he didn't bench Tyreke for any other reason than he felt he was too injured (knee) to play. Tried to play through too much pain— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) January 26, 2016
- Tyreke Evans played 16 minutes and a knee injury was to blame. Obviously, that's not good for New Orleans as Alvin Gentry makes it a mission to keep one of Holiday or Evans on the floor at all times. He'll have a couple days to rest it, as New Orleans doesn't play until the 28th against Sacramento. Keeping him out of that game would give him four days of rest, as the next game after the Kings game is the 30th against Brooklyn.
- In Evans' absence, perhaps Toney Douglas can keep up the hot streak. He's always been someone who had the skillset, but often struggled to put it all together. He can defend a bit, he can hit the three ball and while he's not a point guard, placing him next to the likes of Holiday and Evans, larger guards who can navigate the offense, he's not that bad as a check option, especially if Evans is going to miss the game in Sacramento.
- Speaking of point guards, I think it's time for the Jrue Holiday-Tyreke Evans lineup swap to occur. Forever a pessimistic about Jrue past injuries (but not talent), Holiday has been really good for New Orleans this season. 18.6 points, 8.0 assists, 54 percent shooting and some good, high-level defense over the last five games.
- I don't need to continue to talk about AD and injuries. He got hurt, hopefully, he gets back to 100 percent. Disregard my desire for New Orleans to tank, the Pelicans have to be careful with this one, Davis should not return until he's 100 percent.
- Ryan Anderson did the usual and considering he had to play a bit more after halftime, I thought he did ok. 22 points and nine rebounds, which is the good part. 7-20 shooting from the floor? The not so good part. Still, he knocked down 50 percent of his threes and took on a larger offensive role mid-game.
- Wasn't the greatest game for Dante Cunningham, playing defense on the interior and on the perimeter, defending players on various parts of the spectrum, like Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, and Josh Smith.