The New Orleans Pelicans finished out the first week of the season 1-2, after they clawed their way to a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers late Sunday night. Like in their previous two games, the Pelicans came out strong in the first quarter and kept it going until just under three minutes remained in the third quarter. Then the wheels came off and the Lakers went on a massive run with the full-throated support of the Staples Center crowd behind them. Thankfully, Jameer Nelson and E’Twaun Moore steadied the ship and New Orleans closed on a run of their own to secure their first win of the season.
However, it appears in the eyes of NBA power rankers around the league the damage was already done. Most folks would have expected New Orleans to finish this week 1-2; defeating a proud Memphis Grizzlies franchise in their home opener is no easy task and the Golden State Warriors are a team for the ages. Yet, the process in getting to that 1-2 record likely has Pelican fans suffering from a bout of deja vu.
Once again, the team starts strong, fails mightily when the reserves come in, and seems to abandon the game plan in favor of isolation basketball in the face of adversity. If not for Jameer Nelson, that script was nearly complete Sunday night as well. This may be a new iteration of the Pelicans, but it’s clear that some tendencies have been retained from the previous editions.
On the positive side, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins remain awesome at basketball. Davis is attacking the offensive glass and currently leads the entire league in offensive rebounds. Boogie is facilitating from the high post and even in transition. Ian Clark looks to be one of the steals of free agency and a solid addition to the rotation. Not only is Clark hitting from the outside, but he’s attacking aggressive closeouts as well, creating scoring opportunities for himself and others. When the ball and players are moving (largely in the first quarter), the offense is positively gorgeous.
Three straight collapses raises significant questions. Both Davis and Cousins are playing heavy minutes, and despite being early in the season and not yet playing a back-to-back, both have looked positively exhausted late against both the Warriors and Lakers. Are they out of shape or just not suited to play the up-and-down style Alvin Gentry prefers? Jrue Holiday’s performances have been very uneven and not at all in line with his brand new five year, $126 million contract.
Both NBA.com and ESPN put the Pelicans 11th in the Western Conference.
Last Week: 17 - This Week: 20
The Pelicans signed Jameer Nelson on Sunday morning and got important minutes from him in L.A. on Sunday night, recovering from their second big collapse of the weekend (they led Friday's game against Golden State by 15 points) to pick up their first win of the season. They've been the league's best team in the first six minutes of games, but have been awful defensively (allowing 115 points per 100 possessions) in quarters 2-4. Small sample size theater: Jrue Holiday has shot 4-for-5 with Nelson on the floor and 9-for-34 otherwise.
Last Week: 15 - This Week: 18
There likely isn't a team in the NBA that can contain the Pelicans' two-headed monster of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. But what this team is still searching for is balance. Davis and Cousins have combined for 55 percent of the team's scoring and 61 percent of the rebounds.
Last Week: 15 - This Week: 14
Brow and Boogie look good enough to carry this team to the playoffs. Now, let’s just protect Anthony Davis at all costs. He got clocked in the face Sunday.