Doesn’t it seem like it was just yesterday that basketball fans were fired up at the prospect of watching winning basketball in New Orleans?
You bet, but there was a quiet worry in the back of everyone’s mind that Alvin Gentry might not be able to maximize this roster. Well, the Pelicans head coach did nothing to alleviate those fears Saturday night. New Orleans grinded their way to a 96-83 loss to the less talented yet well coached Dallas Mavericks.
The Pelicans actually started hot, leading 30-24 after the 1st quarter, but Rick Carisle exposed their weaknesses in second quarter. The Mavericks trapped Davis or Cousins every time they received the ball in the post. When the bigs passed out of the double teams, there were no shooters waiting to bail them out. This is a problem readily not solved by coaching. If players can't hit open shots, all the screens or beautiful passing in the world won't save them.
As for the second half, the Pelicans offense totaled 34 points. A supposed NBA team more closely resembled a college basketball team, one that suffered through an off-night handling and shooting the ball. New Orleans never mounted a serious charge in down the stretch, sealing their own fate with poor free throw shooting.
I had the pleasure of watching this one in person and my first impression was that the Pelicans are quite a physically imposing team with the addition of Demarcus Cousins. Cousins and Anthony Davis towered over the opposition en route to collecting 29 of the team’s 45 rebounds. Don’t expect New Orleans to lose many rebounding advantages for the rest of the season because these two are incredibly efficient at vacuuming up errant shots.
The problem, though, came on the scoring side of things. Cousins, widely considering the best offensive center in the league, struggled to find enough touches in his wheelhouse and managed just 12 points on 3 of 9 shooting. Five of his shots came from behind the three-point line.
Davis, on the other hand, continued doing Davis things. He has a weird ability to operate smoothly enough while everything around him is crumbling. Although it took him 34 shots, The Brow scored 39 points to go with his 14 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Through two games, Gentry’s offense has toiled to find the open bigs. For most of the game, Cousins was posted on the low block with Davis at the elbow on the same side. On other possessions Davis and point guard Jrue Holiday would run a pick and roll with Cousins right in the middle of the lane creating a strange football pile in the middle of the floor. I'm not sure if that was the plan but it didn't work at all.
In Gentry's defense, it probably could have worked if the Pelicans had managed to be any kind of a threat from three point range...
For a team that has a bird for a mascot, they sure are running low on wings, zing!
This game was lost in the backcourt. Jrue Holiday still has no idea how to create for a basketball team on certain nights. His good shot selection hides his true deficiency as a lead guard: a total lack of aggressiveness. This roster requires an attacking guard to draw defenders in while the giants on the team clean up any misses. For all my gripes, though, Holiday managed a deceptively good stat line 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The real problems on this team laid outside of the "BIg 3”. The rest of the roster managed to combine for only 14 points and were a ghastly 0-9 from three point range. It was actually quite embarrassing that at points in the game the Pels had two players on 10-day contracts on the floor at the same time (Jarrett Jack and Hollis Thompson).
E'Twaun Moore missed tonights game for personal reasons, but his absence exposed how painfully thin this team is in the backcourt. If fans are ready to call for Gentry’s job, realize that Dell Demps may be as much to blame for the short-handed roster. For instance, signing Jarrett Jack instead of a player who is more proficient from three point range?
The Pelicans truck parade continues tomorrow night in Oklahoma City where the Pels will face Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. The game will tip-off at 6:00 PM central on Fox Sports New Orleans. Check back with us for the preview and recap for the Thunder game.
Hey, at least we can say, Happy Mardi Gras!!