The Pelicans went into Oklahoma City looking to steal a win on the road, where they have been terrible (2-7) this season. Well, let's make that record one game worse in the loss column as New Orleans fell to the Thunder, 101-92.
As in most of the other losses, defensives lapses dogged the Pels tonight. Time after time the team would try to mount a comeback only to be thwarted by a blown defensive assignment or failure to secure the defensive rebound.
Inconsistent defense / bad fast break execution
New Orleans allowed 29 points in both the 1st and 3rd quarters, rendering solid offensive performances in those periods mute.
Jrue Holiday guarded Russell Westbrook for large stretches on the game. Despite Westbrook's triple-double (28 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists), I thought Holiday did a decent job for the most part — Westbrook actually had a quadruple double if you include the 10 turnovers Holiday helped to force. At the end of the day, though, Russ got the better of both Holiday and the Pelicans, especially when the team failed to convert those turnovers into points due to poor fast break execution.
The Pels scored only 12 fast break points despite forcing Oklahoma City into 16 turnovers and netting a ton of long rebound opportunities (Thunder 6-28 from three-point range) . Contrast that to the 25 points OKC scored despite fewer turnovers by New Orleans.
Alvin Gentry and his staff really need to work with this team on their fast break offense. Too many times they seem totally confused about what they want to do when they are in the open court. This usually results in a missed layup, turnover, or bad/rushed shot. The team missed too many bunnies in transition that could have positioned them to be closer going into the fourth quarter.
Where's the bench, but HELLO Buddy!
The end box score shows the bench chipping in a almost decent 30 points. The truth is most of that scoring was of the too little, too late variety. Tim Frazier, Anthony Brown, and Langston Galloway combined for 5 points. Terrence Jones chipped in 9 points but missed several easy finishes.
The lone bright spot off the bench was Buddy Hield. In his return to the state of Oklahoma, Buddy might have had his best game as a pro. He scored 16 points, pouring in 13 points in the fourth quarter. Hield was directly responsible for getting the Pelicans within 4 points late in the final period thanks to his perimeter shooting including this make.
What was even more encouraging was Hield looked extremely comfortable on the floor for the first time in a long time. Gone was the excessive nervous hesitation that we have seen from Buddy so often, but it certainly didn’t start that way.
Once he settled down, it was clear that returning to a place with so many friendly faces helped Hield. This lends credence to the argument that Buddy just needs time to get comfortable in the NBA, and he can likely become a solid pro despite the early struggles. Let's hope he can build off of this positive performance and that the coaching staff will continue to give him the chance because the Pelicans need the help.
Starters were not much better
Anthony Davis was his explosive self as usual. The Brow posted 37 points and 15 rebounds to go with 4 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists on the night. However, following the game, there was some bad news that AD may be hindered in the immediate future with another injury.
Pray for good news, folks, because the rest of the starting lineup was pretty awful. Holiday had 10 points on 4-12 shooting, but I'm pretty sure having to guard Westbrook on the other end contributed somewhat to a lethargic offensive performance. E'Twuan "I NEEEEED" Moore chipped in a pedestrian 10 points, with Solomon Hill providing a disappointing as always scoring line (5 points).
In the NBA, stars are good at home and on the road. It's usually the role players whose performances dip significantly away from familiar surroundings. Performances like tonight make it painfully clear that New Orleans is comprised of nothing more than a bunch of role players around Anthony Davis.
This, of course, is not breaking news; however, that statement is more of an indictment on Jrue Holiday than anyone else. While I understand Westbrook is a tough cover, Holiday has to be a better sidekick to Davis than we witnessed. Holiday is supposed to be the second "star" on this team, and they need him to play well against good competition if they have any chance of making the playoffs this season.
New Orleans was out-rebounded badly on the defensive glass (39-48). This had to be somewhat expected, but not so much after Steven Adams left the game. Three Thunder players finished with 10 or more rebounds, but the Pelicans only one. This is really an area where Solomon HIll is letting the team down. Hill's inconsistent offensive play would be much easier to stand if he at least hit the boards. Hill recorded only 3 rebounds in his 33 minutes tonight, Ugh.
Tomorrow night the Pelicans look to get back on track against the Memphis Grizzlies. They should have an opportunity to winch game with the Grizzlies missing Mike Conley. Make sure you check back for the Memphis game preview early tomorrow morning.