In Rajon Rondo’s first career regular season start as a Pelican, New Orleans (8-7) suffered a 125-116 loss to the Toronto Raptors team after being upended by the all-star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Honestly, the problems ran much deeper than a couple of opponents though. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were marred by foul trouble, picking up three personals and limiting each player to less than 15 minutes of action in the first half — a point Head Coach Alvin Gentry made clear on multiple occasions in his postgame comments.
- “Other than the fact that two of our best players were sitting on the bench for most of the first half. Foul trouble.”
- “...but it’s hard to do that when your best two players are sitting on the bench in foul trouble.”
In addition to an abundance of negative referee whistles, the Pelicans defense was unable to slow the Raptors for much of the game. For instance, Toronto tied their season-high of 16 made three-pointers, which coincidentally, also came against this same Pelicans squad less than a week ago.
“I think, obviously, if you look at the box,” said Gentry, “we shot the ball well and shot the ball well from three, but it’s plus eighteen from three and that was kind of the difference in the game.”
Jameer Nelson, who scored seven points and dished out seven assists, echoed similar sentiments.
“I mean they were hot,” said Nelson. “We had some breakdowns and they made us pay. Offensively, we’re just as good as anybody else. Defensively, we just have got to get better, especially the second unit, myself included. We have got to come out with more energy, a sense of urgency on the defensive side of the floor because we have enough talent offensively. We just have to set the tone on the other end.”
Two All-NBA talents frustrated by the lack of equitable calls on their end and a porous defense on display throughout largely summed up the disappointing night.
Rondo started the first seven minutes by yielding four points and three assists, and the Pelicans returned to their dominant first quarter ways with a 34-29 lead over Toronto. Though foul trouble burdened New Orleans’ gameplan, Cheick Diallo clocked some valuable minutes and finished the first half with eight points in just nine minutes of play.
The continuous turnover narrative unfortunately returned for the Pelicans in the second quarter, eventually ending the night with a total of 14, six of which came from DeMarcus Cousins. Even so, the ball movement overall seemed to be at a higher level than normal with Jrue Holiday, Dante Cunningham, Rondo and Diallo all giving much needed first half consistency. However, as the defense lacked, Toronto crept back in.
The third quarter was back and forth until the Raptors hit their stride to take a 12-point lead deep into the period. What everyone had seen in the first half disappeared, essentially with Rondo. Alvin Gentry chose to use all of Rondo’s minute restriction in the first half (14 minutes – four points, two rebounds, eight assists) and the Pelicans fell flat without his presence.
Once the fourth set in, the game was all but over. Lowry finished the game with a near triple-double of 22 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists; DeRozan with 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists. New Orleans had absolutely no answer for the Raptors’ all-star backcourt. In the loss, Cousins finished with 25 points of his own to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Davis and Holiday followed not far behind. Davis with 19 points, five rebounds; Holiday with 18 points, four rebounds and five assists.
New Orleans will face the Denver Nuggets on the road next on Friday, November 17. Tip-off is set for 9:30 pm CT.