Despite a slew of turnovers, poor perimeter shooting, an offense that struggled to display the requisite movement and a defense that failed to adequately cover the opponent, New Orleans was still in position about mid way through the second half to atone for their mistakes and notch their third consecutive win. After Anthony Davis sank his first free throw attempt at the 1:08 mark of the third quarter, the contest was tied at 83 points apiece.
Then Marreese Speights entered the game for Nikola Vucevic and all hell proceeded to break loose.
The Magic, who were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, went on a 32-16 run to win the game going away. New Orleans defense, which had already endured too many break downs, proceeded to quit entirely, allowing Orlando shooters the easiest of looks — and Speights particularly took full advantage. The Magic’s reserve center accounted for 15 points alone over the next six minutes as he deposited five three-pointers. Sadly, I don’t recall on not one of those attempts did he see a Pelicans hand in his face.
On the other side of the floor, New Orleans offense ground to a complete halt. The beautiful cuts, passes and made open shots from two nights ago against the Cavaliers were nowhere to be found. Granted, Orlando seemed to seize the moment because they didn’t allow the Pelicans any of their preferred looks, but it was likely spurred by how well things were going on their scoring end.
“Most of it, quite frankly, was Marreese Speights getting hot on the other end,” said Frank Vogel. “Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.”
Anthony Davis, who had been a thorn in the Magic’s side all night — as evidenced by a finishing line of 39 points on 13-20 from the field and 13-15 from the free throw line, was unable to rescue the Pelicans after a brief rest to start the fourth quarter.
Following the game, head coach Alvin Gentry was understandably frustrated.
“You have to play the right way and you have to play the right way for forty-eight minutes,” said Gentry. “You can’t do it for twenty-four. I thought we got away from everything that we’ve done the last few games from the standpoint of ball movement, rebounding (and) moving the basketball; we didn’t do any of that in the second half. Against a team that’s a very good offensive team, that’s the result that you’ll get.”
The biggest hindrance for a chance to steal the win on an off-shooting night was the Pelicans lack of effort — which was emphatically stated by the head coach in his post game comments. For whatever reason, DeMarcus Cousins never looked right to us on media row from the opening tip. No, he was far from the only one who deserves blame, but his lethargy was the most noticeable.
Considering how well Boogie had played just this past week, where he walked away with the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week award, it was odd to see him not beat Vucevic consistently off the dribble, make his presence felt around the rim and always appear a step slow in his defensive rotations — or simply stay in close proximity of his primary assignment. If you missed the game, there’s good reason why Vucevic and Speights wound up scoring 38 of the Magic 115 points.
Not surprisingly, Cousins never addressed the media after the loss. To those players we did speak to — like Jrue Holiday, after a meager line of 11 points and six turnovers, they took full responsibility for the lack of effort, careless turnovers and other mistakes. You can be sure Boogie did the same, wherever he decided to spend his minutes pondering his 12 points (on 5-14 shooting) and six turnovers.
“We don’t have any idea of where we are,” fumed Gentry. “So it’s almost back to square one again. And that’s not overreacting, I’m just talking about from the standpoint of, you know, I thought we were approaching consistency and what we were going to be able to do and how we were to approach the game. There’s going to be times the shots are not going to go in or something like that. But the effort has to be there every night and then the way we play collectively as a team has to be there every night. And I did not think it was there tonight.”
If you viewed the game, how can you disagree with any of this? I thought Gentry was spot on, including the part where he preferred the media ask Cousins themselves about whether he was fatigued or what had him off his game.
Yet, despite the setback in performance, I was glad to hear the right perspective moments before exiting the arena.
“It’s one game, but it’s very disappointing.” — well said, Coach.
Let’s hope the team rediscovers the magic in practice tomorrow and then carries it over to their next matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday evening. The season is still young!