The New Orleans Pelicans fell to the Phoenix Suns, 121-100, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. James Ennis led the Pelicans with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. For the Suns, Mirza Teletovic led the way with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. With the loss, the Pelicans moved to 30-50, giving them a 1.5-game lead on the sixth spot in the NBA Draft lottery.
So hey, coming into the game, the Suns weren't shooting the ball well. 32% since March 1st, while taking a lot of attempts (10th in the league at 27.7 attempts per game). The thought was: New Orleans could force the bad shooters on the team to continue to shoot threes, the Pelicans get those misses and turn them into points. Simple enough, no?
Nope. Phoenix blitzed New Orleans on the offensive end. They blitzed them on the defensive end, too, using several traps before the Pelicans could reach the frontcourt. New Orleans got the ball up the floor successfully, but they also had some turnovers because of this. I thought that was an interesting wrinkle against a Pelicans team that has just one good ball-handler on the team at the moment.
And the offensive end. The Suns did a number against New Orleans' defense, finishing with 51 percent shooting and 40 percent shooting from three. They actually had a nice balance from the starters to the bench. With Ronnie Price starting at point guard, the Suns had Devin Booker and P.J. Tucker both take some of the ball-handling duties, and it worked, combining for nine assists. In particular, Booker looked awesome at points as he slid through New Orleans' defense and found teammates.
Off the bench, Mirza Teletovic and Archie Goodwin went to work for Phoenix. Teletovic was a rifleman out there, knocking down 4 of his 8 three-point attempts, en route to 22 points on the night. Goodwin, on the other hand, got his 22 points by getting to the basket and to the line. Even as New Orleans placed taller, longer players on the floor, Goodwin got past them and got to the line with relative ease, finishing 7-of-9 from the free throw line and 4-of-6 at the rim.
The Pelicans weren't completely lifeless, but this game got away from them early. I'm still not understanding the idea of why we see Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca playing together, but it is what it is. James Ennis played well early but was cold in the second half. He had some good bounce, knocked down some threes and even had an impact on the defensive side of the ball. I think it's telling that he's starting at the moment, as the Pelicans could use another reserve wing. A team can never have enough wings, to be honest.
But the injury bug came back once again, a fine reminder that we need this season to end. Alexis Ajinca, just one day after posting a monster game against the Los Angeles Lakers, finished with 4 points, 4 rebounds and left with a right shoulder injury. The combination of Asik and Ajinca finished with 4 points.
Update: Alexis Ajinca (right shoulder) questionable to return.— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) April 10, 2016
Hey man, the Pelicans lost, but they possibly won additional ping-pong balls for the lottery. Let's jump to some notes.
Tim Frazier should be starting the final two games of the regular season. Frazier finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. The only thing I can think of is how much bigger his impact could be if this team had some shooters alongside him. The Pelicans found a nice point guard who should come for cheap next season.
The Pelicans are in a tough position at the center position. I think that's the position Anthony Davis should play more next season, but they have Asik and Ajinca locked up for the longterm. Asik is almost a shell at this point, even on the defensive side of the ball, he looks like he just doesn't have it. Ajinca is good, and I like the pairing alongside Davis, but he isn't a starter. The only thing I'm not doing is attaching picks to get rid of Asik, but I think something has to be done there.
Luke Babbitt played well: 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists. He's been someone I've been down on because I don't think he's a good defender and his scoring comes and goes. The Pels FO likes him, meaning he probably returns next season. He can shoot and is suprisingly athletic, but not for me. Good game, though.
Of the players that played today, I think you have three, maybe four players that you realistically want to keep moving forwards. Even with the injuries this year, that's saying a lot.
Little bit more Ennis talk: Perfect player for the Pelicans to bring back. The Pelicans are going to be largely unproven at the wings, so having as much competetion around as possible is a good thing. Quincy Pondexter is returning from injury, ditto for Bryce Dejean-Jones. Those are the only two wings slated to return and be in the rotaton next season (Alonzo Gee might in the mix). Ennis as your fifth wing, spending some time between the Pels and the NBADL, isn't the craziest idea.
In free agent news, Mirza Teletovic would be a good target to replace Ryan Anderson. Everyone mentioned a hypothetical Ryan Anderson to Phoenix trade, but never considered players like Teletovic, already sitting on Phoenix's roster. I wouldn't mind acquiring Teletovic to space the floor for ⅓ of what Anderson will probably fetch in free agency.