After making an acrobatic layup to bring the New Orleans Pelicans back within one point, Anthony Davis tumbled to the floor clutching his back. Tim Frazier, smartly recognizing the situation, immediately fouled the Lakers to stop the clock and get the training staff out to aid Davis. After a few moments the franchise cornerstone was up and hobbling back to the locker room. The Los Angeles Lakers led 63-62 in a spirited, high scoring affair, and the Pelicans had answered every punch with a counter.
Davis was out a surprisingly short time. He checked out with 8:12 remaining in the third and got back to the scorers table with about three minutes left in the quarter, ultimately checking back into the game with 2:36 to go. He missed a total of 5:36 in the third quarter. The Lakers’ lead ballooned to 79-66. A 16-4 run without Davis on the court.
But, the problems didn’t stop when Davis checked back in. Despite the injury, despite the growing deficit, Davis played 12 consecutive minutes and did not check back out until 2:30 remained in the fourth quarter. By then Los Angeles led by a score of 113-92. Why did Davis continue to log minutes after suffering any kind of injury once the game got out of hand? We’re talking about the Pelicans medical staff here to go with a chronically short-sighted and self-serving coaching staff and front office. Your guess is as good as mine.
On the night, Davis was incredible. He scored 34 points on 26 shots and added in 8 rebounds and a pair of assists and blocks. As I discussed in the preview, Los Angeles did not have an answer for AD and resorted to double and even triple teaming him in the mid post. Defensively he left a bit to be desired, especially rotating as a help defender, but that comes with the enormous caveat of playing injured and quite literally carrying the team on his back on the offensive end.
Buddy Hield was the other remaining bright spot tonight. Despite making just one 3-pointer during the game, Hield really had things going in the pick and roll, getting to the rim at will against the Laker defense. Flashes like this where he looks like so much more than just a shooter should give Pelican fans a glimpse of hope.
However, any hope is probably snuffed out by the atrocious defense. Los Angeles posted a 147.3 offensive rating in the second half. Roughly the equivalent of shooting 75% from the floor. Granted, the Lakers didn’t shoot 75%, posting a meager 72.2 TS% and getting the rest of it via offensive rebounds. New Orleans will plunge from 14th to 22nd in defensive rating just on the basis of tonight. The Lakers are the fifth consecutive opponent to exceed their season-long offensive rating against the Pelicans.
In the end a possible fringe playoff contender came into New Orleans and blew the doors off the Pelicans. Yes, Davis going down to injury got the ball rolling but even when he checked back in he could not turn the tide. $52 million dollar man and free agent big fish Solomon Hill now has Dante Cunningham starting ahead of him. Hill played just 17 ineffective minutes failing to score or collect a rebound. Alexis Ajinca logged nearly twice as many minutes as Omer Asik despite sinking the defense.
The Pelicans are 1-9 and have the worst record in the NBA. The Boston Celtics will come calling on Monday. Hopefully good news on Jrue Holiday’s return will be cemented in the coming days. However, as many of us feared before the season began the hole might be too deep already.