The New Orleans Pelicans started slow, battled back, and then stalled out down the home stretch against the Miami Heat on the second night of a back-to-back to lose 120-112. DeMarcus Cousins worked against foul trouble all night and picked up his 19th technical foul along the way (he will be suspended if he picks up another one) for a rather innocuous (yet still unnecessary) shove during a dead ball situation. There was some good, and likely unsustainable, production from role players outside of Solomon Hill to go along with another uninspiring effort out of Jrue Holiday.
The real fun was the first half of the fourth quarter, so I’m just going to skip ahead. It felt like both teams scored every trip down the floor, so I checked. Both teams combined for a total of five stops in the first six and a half minutes of the game. At one point they traded baskets for ten consecutive possessions from 8:17 to 5:35 remaining.
You might wonder if it was a case of bad defense. I can assure you it was not. Shots were falling. Contested shots. Bad shots. Ill-advised shots. Dante Cunningham was slicing up the Miami defense with well-timed back cuts. E’Twaun Moore was absolutely cash money. The Heat were on fire. In the span of 23 possessions 43 points were scored. It was bananas and not terribly unlike the final quarter of the Charlotte Hornets game on Saturday night.
The lineup that Alvin Gentry employed during this stretch was unique. Tim Frazier, Jordan Crawford, E’Twaun Moore, Dante Cunningham, and DeMarcus Cousins. It should not come as much of a surprise that the big runs by New Orleans (tonight and Saturday in Charlotte) come with a small lineup. This is the way Gentry wants to play. It’s the way the Pelicans have been learning to play since Davis moved to center nearly three months ago. Plugging Cousins into the rotation without AD beside him isn’t much of an adjustment at all for the players or the coaching staff. The problems arise when Cousins and Davis share the court.
About that. After over six minutes of glorious basketball Gentry went to his closing lineup with the Pelicans trailing 105-102 with 5:13 remaining. Jrue Holiday, Moore, Solomon Hill (Tim Frazier got a couple additional possessions), Anthony Davis, and Cousins. New Orleans scored a total of two points over the following four minutes of basketball as the Heat built a comfortable 14 point lead.
Six possessions and just two points for New Orleans while the Heat turned seven possessions into 13 points. That’s going to leave a mark on the old crunch time net rating. Yet, I didn’t find myself displeased with the shots the Pelicans took after two pretty horrible possessions out of the timeout. The second of which was this monstrosity.
James Johnson might have just played the best defense on Boogie I've seen all season by a smaller defender than him pic.twitter.com/MEXASg3POF— Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) March 16, 2017
I get that the Pelicans want to feed a mismatch but MOVE ON TO THE SECOND OPTION ALREADY.
A Jrue Holiday missed layup turned into a glorified alley-oop Kobe Assist to Anthony Davis. Davis then missed another layup and Solomon Hill missed a rather open put back attempt. After a Solomon Hill turnover (we’ll get to him soon) Jordan Crawford missed ANOTHER layup. No, you’re reading that right. In the span of four possessions New Orleans attempted five shots at the rim and came away with a total of two points.
Meanwhile, on the other end James Johnson was draining threes for the Miami Heat. Ok then.
Solomon Hill was pretty awful again tonight. 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers to go along with 1-7 shooting. He would need to be the greatest defender in the entire NBA to make an offensive (both meanings please) performance worth it. Hill is not anywhere need that level of an NBA defender. Sadly, he’s a step above competent at the NBA level on that end but usually a dumpster fire on offense. Don’t let a two game stretch like Saturday and Tuesday fool you. Hill has scored in double figures in three consecutive games once in the last two years. He’s not going to suddenly become a consistent scorer. That’s not in his basketball DNA.
The rest of the supporting cast was exceedingly solid. Moore, Cunningham, and Crawford all chipped in double figures off the bench on efficient shooting. Alexis Ajinca continues to play well in short minutes and Tim Frazier remains fun. This game came down to too many turnovers (Hill committing four given his limited touches is especially egregious), allowing too many offensive rebounds (Miami had 12), and an exceptionally hot shooting night from Miami.
The Pelicans have a well-earned night off on Thursday before getting back to work Friday night in the Smoothie King Center against the Houston Rockets. Let’s hope for a better effort than the blowout that debuted the BoogieBrow era.