Really, there's no other way to describe that type of performance from this New Orleans Pelicans team. Coming into tonight's game, the Mavericks would be without Dirk Nowitzki...and Deron Williams...and Zaza Pachulia...oh and Wesley Matthews. By my count, that's four starters that would be sitting out tonight's game, and when you consider the Mavericks were coming off a double overtime game with the Kings last night while the Pelicans had the past few nights off you'd assume New Orleans would be able to coast to a victory tonight.
Instead, this Pelican team decided to Pelican harder than any other Pelican team has ever Pelicaned before and the result was a 100-91 fart noise of a loss.
I like to think I'm a pretty rational guy when it comes to the Pelicans. When they win, great! When they lose okay fine whatever, life's too short to get that mad over a game. I just graduated from LSU barely a month ago, I have way bigger things to worry about like a job or finding a place to live; whether or not the Pelicans kick ass the rest of this season is pretty far down my list of priorities currently. That being said, the fact that these Pelicans didn't look at tonight's game as a chance to wail on the Mavericks' scrubs like Ben Affleck's posse did to those freshmen in Dazed and Confused is embarrassing.
The Pelicans came out flatter than a Coke can that had just been run over by a Mack truck. It was inexplicable, it was perplexing it was...just so New Orleans of them, and yet somehow we're still surprised when they do "the thing" even when the warning signs are going off louder than a fire alarm.
New Orleans led by a mere point at halftime, 50-49. Of those 50 points, Anthony Davis was responsible for 18 of them. If the Pelicans were to win, they'd need Anthony Davis to have play like Shaquille O'Neal during the early 2000s. But instead of having an "I don't care how little help I get, we are NOT losing this game," night, Davis looked more like the Boston/Cleveland version of The Diesel: eight points in the second half, none in the third quarter. What's more concerning is that on a night where New Orleans needed Davis to be assertive his body language suggested otherwise. I feel like I've seen this kind of indifference before...
Davis' third quarter vanishing act isn't solely responsible for Dallas getting out of the Smoothie King Center with a win that they themselves probably weren't expecting. This was team-wide ineptitude and it showed right from the start of the second half. New Orleans allowed a JaVale McGee lob dunk coming out of halftime, and before the ensuing possession could get going, Omer Asik had to take a timeout because he couldn't find a teammate to inbound the ball to. The half was only 21 seconds in and yet the foreshadowing couldn't have been stronger.
After an Eric Gordon three gave the Pelicans their largest lead of the second half, here's the fun (read cringeworthy) stretch of basketball the Pelicans played immediately ensuing their newfound eight point lead:
- Anthony Davis miss
- Omer Asik turnover
- Tyreke Evans turnover
- Omer Asik blocked by McGee
- Anthony Davis turnover
- Omer Asik turnover
The best part about that comedy of errors: the Pelicans still had the lead. As poorly as the team played both in that four minute stretch and the night as a whole, New Orleans still had a chance to win this game. That's what's most frustrating about tonight. That's why tonight's result feels like the breaking point of the season. The Pelicans played dumb, sloppy, awful basketball against a tired team resting all but one of its starters. Doesn't that just surmise this season so perfectly?
Let's talk about the poor basketball lQ displayed by New Orleans tonight. Anthony Davis had 26 points on 25 attempts in a game where, again, there was no Dirk or Zaza. Even with Davis' inefficient night, someone has to say "we have to keep exploiting this mismatch." But instead of getting the ball to Davis on the post and let him develop an unstoppable rhythm, New Orleans thought it'd be best to play like the Seven-Tenths of a Second or Less Suns and shoot three pointers almost immediately after inbounding the ball. You may as well shoot from halfcourt if you aren't going to bother running anything close to an actual offensive set.
Speaking of ill-advised three pointers, New Orleans was 7-30 from beyond the arc, a cool 23 percent. Eric Gordon hit four of his seven three-point shots but naturally New Orleans didn't try and continuously feed his hot hand. In fact Gordon's last shot came with 11:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. But it's totally justifiable because his last shot was a miss so he was clearly tapped out for the night right, is this how this works?
I'm not sure what was worse tonight: the effort or the senseless fouls away from the basket. Yes is probably the only good answer. David Wesley noted during the broadcast that Dallas was just playing faster than New Orleans which, once again, let us all remember that Dallas was the one who was up late last night playing a game while the Pelicans had the past few nights off. The fouling in poor spots can hopefully be corrected. Those are teaching moments. But the lack of effort at home against a team resting four starters? That's awfully concerning.
Tonight was a game no one was expecting to lose. Maybe it was simply one of those things that can't be explained, but considering who this team is, maybe we should've seen it coming all along.