Another week down and just a handful remain in the NBA regular season. Will the New Orleans Pelicans scratch their way into the playoffs and get a couple extra weeks of work? Probably not if the previous 21 weeks are any indication. Even wins may not enough when their primary competition continue to pile up victories as well.
Consider that since the All-Star Break the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets are 6-4 while the Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers are each 6-3. Over the next 16 games New Orleans must beat out all four of those teams by at least two games a piece (Minnesota and Dallas) or more (they trail Portland by 3.5 and Denver by 4.5).
The very reasonable hope was that even if the Pelicans did not claw their way into the playoffs, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins could begin to figure out how to play together. Thus, the remaining 26 games (now 16) could function as a springboard into next year while providing the front office ample evidence on how to build around their two towers.
The pairing has not worked... yet. While they are surprisingly stout on defense, the Pelicans are a complete train wreck offensively when Davis and Cousins share the floor. This goes beyond the role players shooting terribly. Anthony Davis is shooting 39.2% from the floor with Cousins according to NBA Wowy. Jrue Holiday is shooting 31.4% when sharing the court with BoogieBrow. The remaining role players have scored 49 points on 58 field goal attempts. Yeesh.
While it’s only 146 minutes, the BoogieBrow experience has been roundly terrible together. I do not read much in Boogie’s numbers when Davis sits; those are bench units. I am also not terribly surprised that the Pelicans are lighting the world on fire while Cousins sits. New Orleans reverts to the team Alvin Gentry prefers to coach during those minutes and significant continuity helps when Dante Cunningham, Solomon Hill, and E’Twaun Moore share the court around Davis and Holiday.
Has the DeMarcus Cousins experiment failed? Of course not. That does not mean it is failing to reach even the most realistic of expectations. Charlotte exploited the biggest weakness in the Twin Towers lineup by guarding Davis with a wing in Marvin Williams. It was the same thing Houston did with Trevor Ariza and Dallas did with Harrison Barnes out of the All-Star Break.
Teams have been able to guard Anthony Davis with a bigger wing to nullify the advantages a Cousins-Davis partnership can provide. The coaching staff has yet to find an adequate method to counteract it with both big men on the floor, so going small with Davis at center is their trump card. See the last 15 minutes of the Hornets game for a prime example. Against lesser opponents this may work, but it is likely produce similar results to previous iterations of Pelicans small ball against top tier competition. Substandard.
Speaking of substandard, New Orleans remains mired in the bottom third of the league. The bump after the Boogie trade all but forgotten.
Last Week: 21 - This Week: 23
DeMarcus Cousins missed all six of his clutch shots as the Pelicans lost four of their first five post-break games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Then, with Cousins sitting the final 14:25 (with five fouls), they scored 30 points on 21 clutch possessions (starting with five straight threes) in Saturday's overtime win in Charlotte. In 157 post-break minutes with Anthony Davis on the floor without Cousins, the Pels have scored 114 points per 100 possessions with Davis shooting 57 percent. As they continue trying to make it work, their own playoff chances are slim, but they'll have a role in who's in and who's out either way, playing eight of their final 16 games against teams 7-11 in the West and two more against Miami and Chicago.
Last Week: 22 - This Week: 23
The numbers are impossible to ignore. Since Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins became teammates, New Orleans is minus-22 in the 163 minutes of court time those two have shared, minus-28 in the 101 minutes that Cousins has logged without Davis ... and plus-19 in the 156 minutes that Davis has logged without Cousins. The Pels, in other words, continue to struggle to find a good flow with both of their All-Star big men on the floor and little in the way of proven perimeter shooting around them, which helps explain why they remain on the fringes of playoff contention, five full games out of the West's No. 8 spot with just 16 left on the schedule. Yet we really can't say enough about what The Brow did Saturday night on his 24th birthday; Davis' 46 points and 21 rebounds in an overtime victory in Charlotte -- with zero turnovers -- put him in a rather exclusive club. Shaquille O'Neal (in 1994-95) and Moses Malone (in 1981-82) are the only other players in league history to post a 40/20 game without a single turnover since the NBA began tracking TOs in 1977-78. The Elias Sports Bureau says Davis is also just the fourth player in NBA annals to post a 40/20 game on his birthday, joining Neil Johnston, Elvin Hayes and Shaq.
Last Week: 24 - This Week: 22
DeMarcus Cousins sat in crunch time, Anthony Davis finished with 46 points and 21 rebounds, the Pelicans won a rather meaningless overtime game against the Hornets, and there are gonna be at least seven stupid narratives springing from Boogie’s temporary benching.
Last Week: 27 - This Week: 25
New Orleans is two losses away from clinching a losing record this season and they left DeMarcus Cousins on the bench when they made their comeback vs. Charlotte on Saturday. They have Boogie for a song and their fortunes haven't changed. That's about as bad of a sign as you'll find.