The New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, 133-105, but don’t concentrate too much on the final score. The lopsided loss shouldn’t have been a surprise, not with Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Dante Cunningham, Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter sitting this one out. Rather, please be sure to remember the good: the team’s rookies got an opportunity to play a lot of minutes and they made the most of it.
Cheick Diallo, who was recalled just 3 days ago from the D-League and had a total of 7 minutes in the NBA before entering tonight’s matchup, exploded for 19 points, 10 rebounds and 2 steals. Thanks to Terrence Jones finding early foul trouble, Diallo got his chance in the first quarter and he ran with it, never looking back in his 31 minutes.
Diallo’s intensity, effort and physical talent were on full display and it reaffirmed to those who watched him in summer league action that if keeps learning the nuances of the game, he has a chance to be a very good contributor down the road. Following the end of the game, Alvin Gentry echoed these sentiments by stating that Diallo plays with excellent energy and quickness but still has plenty to learn.
The Pelicans other rookie, Buddy Hield, drew the start for the fourth time in his young career, but it was easily his best performance of the bunch: 15 points (on 6-13 shooting), 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 threes. Hield let the game come naturally to him, and in not forcing the offense to happen, he was rewarded for his patience, even scoring multiple times on one of the league’s feistiest defenders, Chris Paul.
Speaking of CP3, he had himself a night.
A 20/20 line with no turnovers? Bravo — although it must be mentioned that Doc Rivers reinserted CP3 back into the game at the 6:16 mark of the fourth quarter with the Clippers ahead 111-89. #StatChasing
Surprisingly, the Pelicans were still in the game after the first half of action; however, that abruptly changed within the first few minutes of the third quarter. An 18-6 Clipper run quickly ended any thoughts of a potential upset bid, and Gentry later noted the disparity.
“I thought we played well in the first half, and then the turnover thing reared it’s ugly head.”
The Pelicans didn’t commit an exorbitant number of turnovers (16), but the fact that the Clippers scored 22 points off of them hurt significantly. In addition to the points off turnovers, the New Orleans defense completely fell asleep in the second half: DeAndre Jordan was catching wide open lobs while J.J. Redick was able to drive right down central and lay it in at the rim without a Pelican defender in sight.
With just 9 players healthy, including newcomer Reggie Williams, it’s hard to fault the final result, but there were plenty of newsworthy items.
- Solomon Hill came out aggressively and his shot found the bottom of the net! He tallied 13 points (on 8 shots), 4 assists, 3 rebounds and was a perfect 2-2 from three-point range. Why can’t this version show up more often?
- Terrence Jones put up a fine statistical line of 18 points (on 9 shots) and 5 rebounds, but as mentioned, early foul trouble cost him a lot of minutes in the first half. Then again, had this not transpired, there might be a good chance Diallo doesn’t come close to having the game that he had. Following Jones’ second foul, Gentry decided to roll with an Alexis Ajinca-Omer Asik combination and it went about as well as one would expect.
- Ajinca, in particular, was often involved in a lot of lowlights.
CP3 puts Alexis Ajinca on skates. https://t.co/uAE0FDhA4X— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 11, 2016
Yeah, almost no big can guard Paul, but Ajinca’s humiliating moment pointed out the trouble he has staying with anyone quicker than him. In order to play at the desired modern NBA pace, mobility is vital and unfortunately Alexis is not blessed with nearly enough.
This, however, should never happen.
Ajinca’s first concern is to make sure he stays in contact with Jordan so that he doesn’t get burned like this. Although Asik was better defensively, he still wasn’t without warts because the Pelicans tandem at center allowed Jordan to get 5 offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone! For the game, the Clippers starting center finished with 19 points, just 2 off his season-high. Considering he can only score from right next to the rim, that’s a bad combined effort, guys.
- Tim Frazier led the Pelicans with 20 points and he also added 11 assists. He got off to a strong start and played well throughout, notching his first 20/10 game since the team’s win against the Atlanta Hawks last month.
- Reggie Williams played 16 minutes but didn’t stand out, mimicking his predecessor Anthony Brown by missing 3 of his 4 shot attempts.
Following tonight’s loss, the Pelicans hopped on a jet and flew to Phoenix where they will face the Suns Sunday at 7:30 pm CST. The good news is that Anthony Davis should be a go. The bad news is New Orleans has lost 7 of their last 8 games, and to break that trend they’ll have to win on the road — where they’ve only managed 2 wins all season.