The New Orleans Pelicans sad little basketball bus pulled into San Antonio on Sunday and a slaughter ensued. Don’t pay attention to the final score, 113-100, because that failed to divulge the full story.
You know how when you were in high school and no matter how bad your team was the schedule makers always found some laughingstock squad to serve as the sacrificial lamb for homecoming? Well, meet the 2016-2017 Pelicans, everybody's favorite homecoming matchup. The Spurs decided that tonight of all nights would be the best time to coronate one of the all-time greats to grace the league — Tim Duncan had his jersey retirement ceremony tonight — while not having to worry about the result of the game being spoiled by a loss. Just have a look at how the Pels entered the arena.
I mean... I can break this game down but what would that really accomplish? The outcome was what most anyone would expect at this current point in time: one of the least competent organizations in the association getting overwhelmed by one of the most competent. Long story short: The Spurs came out more inspired, taking advantage of the Pelican starters in second chance points and points off turnovers. It’s often about making plays and the Pelicans were nowhere to be found.
After the first quarter the Pelicans trailed 30-26 — that was just a warm up. The Spurs poured it on in the second and third quarters, beating the Pelicans 31-23 and 31-22 in the second and third frames respectively. That gave San Antonio a healthy lead going into the fourth quarter where the game was never really in doubt.
Anthony Davis had one of his quietest nights of the season, and it’s fast becoming the norm against the Spurs. The Brow scored only 12 points in 30 lifeless minutes. Jrue Holiday failed to fare any better: 5 points, 6 assists and 2 rebounds. The duo combined for a -49 +/- in 54 minutes.
Sunny Side Up
One bright spot of the game was Buddy Hield, despite just 25 minutes of action. The rookie continued his display of improved play, scoring 14 points on 6-11 shooting and 2-4 from three-point range. When possessing the advantage, he pushed the ball with pace and set up several teammates with timely assists.
Almost overshadowing that bright spot, though, is the disappointing failure of the coaching staff to get Cheick Diallo any real minutes during this lost season. With the campaign quickly slipping away, it makes sense to prioritize Diallo’s development, who many believe could eventually be a long term answer next to Anthony Davis. Gentry played the rookie big less than 10 minutes in a game that was out of reach by mid-third quarter.
With Genty and Demps on the hottest of hot seats, it will be interesting to see if they'll ever be willing to give their youngsters extended minutes. I can see no reason for the franchise to continue to invest minutes in Dante Cunningham and Alexis Ajinca. Diallo will undoubtedly make some rookie mistakes, but at least his development could benefit the franchise down the road. These are the small moves competent organizations make all the time. The season is over so invest the resources you currently have, minutes, into the assets that are most likely to return value to the organization.
Diallo and Hield are players that could one day have to help this team start winning or maybe even convince Anthony Davis to stay past the length of his current contract. Their development should be the top priority of management. Waive the white flag, admit its over, and please seek to #DevelopDiallo.