DeMarcus Cousins came out to raucous cheers and buried the first basket of the game. The crowd, especially for Muses night (one of the most popular Mardi Gras parades of the year), was electric and the Smoothie King Center was rocking. Games in the days before Mardi Gras itself are problematic; traffic is a nightmare and many local fans elect to go to parades rather than make it to a New Orleans Pelicans game. Scheduling games at this time of year is never a good idea, but a likely compromise this season due to the All-Star Game being hosted at the last minute. Pelican fans brought it tonight.
Sadly, their reasons for cheering would not last long. After a back and forth affair, the Rockets destroyed the Pelicans will with a massive 20-6 run to end the second quarter. Their lead continued to grow into the third quarter as the Pels could not find an avenue to offensive success. The Pelicans allowed far too many open threes tonight and the Rockets were happy to make New Orleans pay for their lazy, and at times, completely absent attempts at defense.
Houston defeated the Pelicans 129-99 and the game was not at all close in the second half. Good thing Dell Demps got top three protections on that 2017 first round pick, huh?
To throw more salt on the wound, Omri Casspi broke his thumb tonight. The timetable for his return is 4-6 weeks but the Pelicans will be perilously short on the wing for the foreseeable future unless they find a way to open another roster spot. Casspi scored 12 points tonight and was the only non-BoogieBrow to reach double figures.
Omri Casspi's thumb is broken.— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) February 24, 2017
DeMarcus Cousins was excellent. He routinely sealed his man underneath the basket, found open three point shooters from his post ups, and created havoc defensively racking up five steals and four blocks. His final line; 27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 4 blocks is the stuff of NBA 2K careers. Alvin Gentry elected to stagger Boogie with AD and he did a decent job holding down the fort with the second unit.
The pairing with Anthony Davis is going to take time and some growing pains are certainly expected. But, a loss like this to the Rockets? A 30 point loss? This is embarrassing. Fans were murmuring and even booing in the fourth quarter. Only DeMarcus Cousins checking out the game got fans off their feet in the final frame.
Jrue Holiday was atrocious. Six points, four assists, and seven turnovers with a -31 (team worst) does not even begin to describe how bad he was against the Rockets. Live ball turnovers killed the Pelicans tonight and no one was more guilty than Holiday. Sloppy is a generous description. The passes were not simply off target, they were lazy and oftentimes poorly conceived.
Oversharing is a common error when a team adds a superstar. Remember that the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat on opening night of the process, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the New York Knicks when LeBron James returned to the Land, and even the Golden State Warriors did not look themselves for the first few weeks of the season after adding Kevin Durant. The Pelicans do not have the luxury of an entire season to work the kinks out.
Tonight’s game was very fast, especially when the Rockets put the hammer down and blew the Pelicans out. DeMarcus Cousins looked labored at times and, as FiveThirtyEight suggested, is simply not best utilized in a fast paced environment. The occasional fast break is welcome, but Boogie is best when he’s allowed to work close to the basket. Will Alvin Gentry relent on his basketball dogma and coach the talent he actually has on the court? Time will tell. Just one game, against a rested Mike D’Antoni team, is insufficient evidence to render judgement.
One game down and just 24 remain this season. If the Pelicans are going to find their way into the playoffs, they have to put this performance in the rear view and rebound against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.