Game two of the new era in New Orleans basketball is set to play out in Dallas Saturday evening. Although the Pelicans (23-35) and Mavericks (22-35) have nearly identical losing records, the rest of the season expectations couldn’t be any more different.
With the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans have moved all their chips to the center of the table, hoping the NBA’s biggest trade at the deadline earns a postseason trip in less than two months time. Meanwhile, the Mavericks waived both Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut, days after announcing they would be willing to tack on salary if future draft picks were attached.
The problem is the Twin Span connection of Anthony Davis and Cousins are off to a slow start, though through no fault of their own, as New Orleans was crushed at home by the Houston Rockets several nights ago. The All-Star frontcourt duo posted 56 of the Pelicans 99 points and added 23 rebounds, six assists, seven steals and six blocks, yet New Orleans still managed to lose by 30 points because the rest of the team shot a meager 37% from the field and turned the ball over 16 times!
The Pelicans don’t require divine production from their players up and down the roster, but they will need a better performance than the dud they laid in front of an initially excited Smoothie King Center crowd. Regardless of how well the stars play, a team must contribute stronger than a 27.7% mark on uncontested field goal attempts.
Fortunately for New Orleans, they’re going from facing one of the league’s quickest and most potent offenses to one of the slowest and least effective. A more deliberate pace should be a good thing for Alvin Gentry as the speed of the game seemed to be the Pelicans enemy against the Rockets. As to where Houston launched 50 of their 91 shot attempts (55%) within the first nine seconds of the shot clock, New Orleans tried only 37 of their 86 attempts (43%) within the same timeframe. Additionally, the Pelicans connected on just 35.1% of those attempts while the Rockets converted 52% of those looks.
It was just one game, but I hope the coaching staff is strongly considering to pump the brakes. You’ve got the two most dynamic bigs in the game so there exists no reason to run at every turn or shoot each first decently open opportunity. Davis and Cousins must be utilized nearly every trip down the floor because the rest of the crew has serious difficulty in creating their own offense and scoring the ball.
The Pelicans averaged 1.04 points per play when Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins had an offensive touch Thursday night pic.twitter.com/5lwuMcC69v— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 24, 2017
With Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Terrence Jones off the team, New Orleans is missing 4 of their top 11 scorers on a per minute basis. Although Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore, Tim Frazier and Dante Cunningham remain, they are much shier role players.
Please, guys, work the ball. Don’t settle for average shot attempts, rather make sure they’re good looks. You've got two prize-winning horses in the stable so use them.
And no, I don’t care very much for the fact that the Mavericks played Friday night in Minnesota and then had to fly to home as to where the Pelicans spent all of Friday in Dallas. Nearly most of the NBA just had over a week off so I’m not buying the tired leg argument on the second night of a back-to-back, especially since the Pelicans are no longer a team that is best suited to run.
What: Pelicans at Mavericks
Where: American Airlines Center — Dallas, Texas
When: February 25, 2017 at 7:30 PM Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports Southwest 99.5 FM WRNO