The New Orleans Pelicans lost 113-96 to the Indiana Pacers, dropping the team’s record to 1-1 in preseason play. The Pelicans played from behind for most of the night, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. They allowed the Pacers to shoot — get this — 28 more field goal attempts! It probably wouldn’t have mattered how well the Pelicans would have played on this night because giving an opponent that many more chances to score is going to result in a loss 99 times out of 100.
Rebounding, or should I say a lack thereof, was the main culprit. A 59-44 edge clearly indicates the Pacers dominated the glass. They had a field day on offense because missed shots were of no consequence. Indiana corralled 16 of their initial misses and turned them into 20 second chance points. Meanwhile, they allowed the Pelicans just three meager offensive rebounds.
Asides from the 20-4 second chance disparity, the Pacers also had a commanding 16-6 edge in points off turnovers. Overall, Indiana outscored New Orleans by a 58-28 margin in the paint — yeah, feel free to mimic a screaming face emoji at anytime.
That’s. Just. Ridiculous. Guys.
Despite these lopsided numbers, though, I honestly felt the defense played well enough during their initial attempts to give themselves a chance to win the game. The effort and indifference never reached the point we saw so many times last season... Well, among the regular rotation anyways because about the time Robert Sacre entered the game in the 4th quarter, everything proceeded to completely fall apart for good.
I do wonder, though, the effect of Anthony Davis missing his first 7 field goal attempts had on the team. The good news is that he looks completely healthy and just had an off night, but I’m worried that until Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans returns, tonight’s starting lineup around AD consisted entirely of role players from last season. If Davis isn’t clicking, who among Frazier, Moore, Hill and Ajinca can be counted on to provide double-digit scoring night in, night out?
I think I’ll extrapolate my thoughts further in an article later this week, but for now, I think the coaching staff should strongly consider giving Buddy Hield a few starts during the team’s trip to China. After all, Hield has been the Pelicans most consistent offensive weapon, scoring 37 points through 2 games — 9 more than E’Twaun Moore, the next highest individual total. Hield has become very adept at getting himself open and finding the open man when closely guarded. His defense remains a work in progress, but the Pelicans may have to ignore it to feature his offense alongside Davis.
1) Alexis Ajinca and Davis moved the ball well, especially amongst themselves. It’s a thing of beauty to watch Gentry’s offense operate when the five guys on the floor are solid, unselfish passers.
Here's a glimpse of the Pelicans improved ball movement. (Also notice Moore's airball -- he's off!) pic.twitter.com/oTOqX4ZnO4— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) October 5, 2016
Unfortunately, this poetry in motion must be pushed to the side because when Ajinca was on the floor, the Pacers really owned the paint. I remember multiple instances when it was Ajinca’s duty to provide help in front of the rim, he didn’t. And the biggest reason seemed to be Kevin Seraphin, the Pacers backup to Myles Turner. Although Ajinca managed 8 rebounds in 19 minutes, he struggled to handle Seraphin’s girth and strength. Ajinca was noticeably preoccupied with his assignment, so much so, he couldn’t tend to other duties like defend the rim or be a larger factor on the glass. It probably wouldn’t hurt to give Omer Asik some run in the starting lineup, especially if Hield is going to get a chance.
2) I felt Terrence Jones started the game really well; however, as the game progressed and the misses continued to pile up from the charity stripe and the three-point line, many believe he finished with a lackluster performance. Jones is very good at initiating a fast break following a rebound, even possessing the ability to bring up the ball at times. That’s an important facet if the Pelicans seek to copy the Golden State Warriors quick-hitting offense of finding easy looks in the first few seconds of the shot clock.
Additionally, when Jones is out on the perimeter, he’s repeatedly exhibited an ability to beat his man to the rim for an easy score. I can’t say the same for Solomon Hill, who has had trouble getting by his man in the first two games. Although it was nice to see Hill drain a couple of threes, I’m beginning to worry his offensive limitations are going to be a larger issue than I had previously thought. Will the coaching staff opt to choose Jones more often for small ball lineups for his offensive versatility or Hill because of his defensive abilities, as he showed off against Paul George?
3) For a second straight game, Tim Frazier had another big assist tally (7), but against a lineup of legitimate starters, he was the only guard to consistently hit the open man. The Pelicans may not have the luxury of selecting between him and Langston Galloway for the starting PG role if one of them is only capable of giving the offense it’s necessary flow.
4) Lance Stephenson failed to inspire me again, further strengthening my belief that he’s not going to make the regular season roster. FWIW, I observed several close interactions on the bench by various members of the team with Alonzo Gee, supposedly the most likely cut candidate. At one time or another, Quincy Pondexter, Tyreke Evans and Davis, when his night was done, were all engaged in significant conversation with Gee on the sidelines. From Dell Demps comments yesterday, I can’t imagine the front office opting to keep Stephenson over him. Even though Lance can post better individual numbers, I have little doubt Gee’s presence probably makes the team a stronger unit.