Everyone already knew what the outcome was going to be. The Pelicans struggle against the Rockets; they also struggle on the road. Two wrongs usually do not make a right, and that narrative continued to ring true Wednesday night.
With that being said, when you are up 93-87 around the 2:00 mark, you should pull out the victory more times than not. Late game execution was nonexistent, and I am almost positive that Alvin Gentry had a stroke after multiple possessions resulted in turnovers down the stretch.
Houston put the game away late, icing the Pelicans frazzled offense to only two measly Ryan Anderson free throws the rest of the way. It was a "throw the remote at the television" type of game. Or, for my generation, it was a "slam the smart cover shut on your iPad really hard" kind of game.
The Rockets employed an interesting defensive strategy that showcased countless trapping and chaotic symmetry that played a part in 22 turnovers for New Orleans. In the half court, wingman Trevor Ariza was pinned on Anthony Davis and nobody really had an answer for it.
Davis is far from a traditional post player and lacks the girth to bully smaller oppositions on the block. He tends to rely on pick and pop jumpers, lobs or funky floaters that find their way in the hoop only because of his impeccable touch. Ariza never allowed Davis to get into a rhythm, and it was difficult for him to get post position or even a shot up for most of the night.
Davis forces the issue here with plenty of time on the shot clock to get a better look.
Early in the game, Norris Cole would set up a pick and roll with Davis, forcing Ariza to hedge hard on Cole. Normally this will cause a ripple effect of increased ball movement and eventually an open shot (usually in the corner). However, due to the presence of Sir Kendrick Perkins on the floor, the entire offensive flow was mucked.
Notice how Dwight Howard has no fear for Perk's offensive prowess and essentially deserts him to tend to the threat of a Davis lob over the top:
Cole has no choice but to swing it over to Big Daddy Perk, allowing ample time for Ariza to get back to his man and for Howard to coax Perkins into taking a floater that -- to the surprise of no one -- does not go in. This is why the outcry for Perkins to not get any playing time gets so loud within the Twitterverse.
It is increasingly difficult to score with a complete offensive zero on the floor. Teams mitigate big men with a poor shooting touch by routinely involving them in pick and roll sets or extra curricular side screens, but Perkins is such a non-threat that defenses will disregard his existence and force the offense to play 4 on 5. He is a lumbering behemoth that cannot slice the defense for kamikaze rim runs. He is utterly useless.
Take Perkins off of the floor (hooray!) and the offense unclogs quite a bit:
Even though Davis misses this dunk (who knew that was possible), this should still be the basis of every offensive possession. A simple double screen with Ryan Anderson and Davis on either side of Jrue Holiday produces an open shot for someone at least 95.8% of the time (that figure may be an approximation).
If you are feeling frisky, scroll back above and compare the screen shot with Perk to this one. The mere threat of Anderson's range has Josh Smith keeping contact like a parent that takes their young child to the mall for the first time.
Houston was able to confuse the New Orleans offense with a flurry of traps throughout the game. Shooters would be left open, but the level of mastery it would have taken to get a pass to the open man with an engaged Howard and Patrick Beverley up in your grill is LeBronesque.
It was apparent that the Rockets were keying Davis on every possession, throwing two or three men his way each time he touched the ball. The floor balance of Houston on defense was out of whack with four or even five defenders on one side with open shooters along the perimeter. There were plenty of chances to hit open guys via the skip pass. Houston (correctly) bet that the Pelicans offense would not be sharp enough to burn their aggressiveness.
It will be interesting to see if more teams utilize this strategy against New Orleans going forward. Sure, playing with pace ramps up the number of possessions as well as the number of turnovers. But even in the half court, the offense can get pretty murky while playing within a distressed environment.
The bigger concern going forward will be that matching up your best wing defender with Davis is going to be the new trend with the recent successes of Ariza and Jared Dudley before him. Striking up a counter attack is a tall task with the supporting cast that starts alongside Davis for the game's first six to eight minutes.
In all honesty, it may not even matter. With the loss, the chances of the Pelicans making the playoffs is a far cry and we have now entered the time of the year when weird stuff starts to happen.
Maybe Perkins should play more. Hell, let him hoist some threes. At least we know that no one will be there to contest him.