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The effects of a disappointing 2015-16 campaign may be catching up with the Pelicans

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New Orleans defense has sprung leaks everywhere during the month of February, perhaps indicating the end of the season can't come soon enough.

Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout parts of this dismal season, Alvin Gentry has criticized the Pelicans' effort in a number of his post-game interviews, particularly following bad losses. For instance, games like in Los Angeles against the Lakers, versus the Mavericks after Rick Carlisle had rested four of his starters or the drubbing in Phoenix should immediately come to mind. So much so, social media has learned to expect in advance when the head coach is likely to lament the team's performance in his immediate comments.

Lo and behold, a departure from the norm might loom before us. In the Pelicans last game against the Wizards, many expected Gentry to pull out his oft-used complaint from his back pocket. After all, Washington had opened the third quarter on a 14-0 run, outscored New Orleans 26-12 in fast break points and dominated the paint (50-30). But he decided to not go to that well one more time.

For once, I think he should have gone there. In perusing the statistics earlier this morning at NBA.com, a lot of signs exist that the Pelicans' effort level may be lacking of late, and at the very least, needs to be questioned here in the month of February. Specifically, the defensive side of the ball has morphed into some sort of broken turnstile, not being able to discriminate between paying patrons and freeloaders.

The Pelicans' 54.3 opponent effective field goal percentage has nearly flown right off the charts in February, and along with it, the 69.0 opponent's field goal percentage in the restricted area. When examining the individual field goals defended at the rim percent, the explanation is made clearer but remains equally shocking.

November December January February
Anthony Davis 48.4% 42.0% 46.5% 63.2%
Omer Asik 42.4% 46.2% 51.9% 59.1%
Alexis Ajinca 50.0% 43.3% 50.0% 70.4%
Ryan Anderson 53.8% 50.0% 60.6% 57.7%

Ryan Anderson will never be confused with even being an average interior defender, but for his 57.7% mark to lead the heart of the Pelicans interior defense is simply astounding. Anthony Davis, who tallied almost 3.0 blocks a game the last several seasons, averaged 1.7 blocks in January and is averaging a paltry 1.3 this month.

Perhaps the Pelicans have changed their defensive strategy, maybe to reduce the effectiveness of the three-point shot?

The opponent's corner 3FG% in February is as high as it's been all season and the above the break 3FG% isn't that far behind a November which saw the Pelicans go 4-10, a team that limped out of the starting gates due to numerous debilitating injuries.

Now, please don't take any of this to mean the players are tanking away the rest of the season. That's a ludicrous notion, one that can easily be disproved by the team winning 4 of 5 games around the All-Star break. Or, by the fact that Davis recently had the best individual game of his career. They still care, and likely will until the final game of the regular season. The locker room is filled with a good collection of high character players.

Rather, I'm suggesting that a team which is trending in the wrong direction for the first time in Davis' career is exhausted. After all the injuries, failed expectations and the like, the team doesn't possess that extra gear or two they rode into the postseason one year ago. They're mentally tired for trying to find a large enough of a band-aid all season, and physically spent after exerting so many minutes that have resulted in a lot more losses than wins on the schedule.

Maybe this is why Gentry decided to not throw the team under the bus after John Wall coasted to a triple double and Jared Dudley, a one dimensional offensive threat, canned 6 of 10 shots from behind three-point line just a few days ago. If so, I applaud his actions to not denounce the team publicly, but can't help but wonder why now, when the effort argument probably rings more true than ever.