With both teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back, in the high altitude of Salt Lake City, Utah no less, most expected tonight’s matchup to be more of the grit and grind variety than the beautiful basketball we’ve only managed to hear about here in New Orleans through second-hand accounts.
To be honest, this game would have probably made the Memphis Grizzlies cringe in fear. The Pelicans and Jazz combined for 39 turnovers and a 38.2 field goal percentage. Jrue Holiday and Solomon Hill were so ineffective early that Alvin Gentry didn’t even bother going back to either of them for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
If you haven’t guessed yet, this game made for very difficult viewing. The Pelicans scored 14 points in the first quarter, 20 in the second, and 18 in the third. The score was 61-52 entering the fourth and most were bewildered they were watching an NBA game. I know I was transfixed: desperate to look away but too invested to give up before the final buzzer.
In his post-game comments, Alvin Gentry didn’t mince words.
“Offensively we were just inept and when you do that it’s hard to win. You’ve got to score baskets. You’ve got to be good defensively but you have to also got to score baskets.”
Funny thing is, the Pelicans had a chance to win the game. After being down by as many as 18 in the first half, a Jordan Crawford jumper at the 5:09 mark of the fourth quarter cut the Pelicans deficit to three. That was the closest New Orleans would threaten for the rest of the game, but given all the bad shooting, execution failures and piss poor effort levels at times, it’s a miracle the Pelicans had any chance at all of leaving Utah with a victory.
The most interesting thing, though, was the fact that the unlikeliest member of the roster very nearly brought New Orleans back from the dead. Jordan Crawford lit up the box score and scored 14 of his 19 points in the final frame. In his first game in the NBA in three years, Crawford did what no other 10-day contract has been able to do since the Boogie trade: be relevant.
Gentry lauded Crawford after the game. “He played well. That’s who he is. He’s had success in this league before and he is a scorer.”
If he wasn’t scoring, Crawford was busy making other plays. He had two steals and finished with three assists including this diaper dandy to Anthony Davis.
Now, before anyone gets too excited, realize it’s just one game, and hey, we’re talking about Crawford, a player with a known history of playing inefficient basketball. But, that’s neither here nor there in my opinion because the Pelicans freshest face managed to show just how desperate this team is for offensive-minded role players who are not afraid of the big moment when their number is called — something I refuse to stop harping over.
Post the All-Star break, this has been a huge issue for the Pelicans: making enough shots, especially the uncontested attempts.
Yep, uncontested FG% a pattern since All-Star break:— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) March 6, 2017
vs SAS: 39.6 FG%
vs DET: 35.3 FG%
at OKC: 38.2 FG%
at DAL: 31.4 FG%
vs HOU: 27.7 FG% https://t.co/YzuDoxd9cH
“If you don’t make shots, it’s always disruptive,” said Gentry. “When you shoot 30% or whatever the hell we shot, you know, 35%, you’re going to have trouble winning games. It doesn’t matter, outside, inside, or whatever, you’ve got to be able to get the ball in the basket. That’s all.”
Davis finished with 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting. Cousins went 5-15 from the field for 15 points. The rest of the starters — Holiday, Hill and Hollis Thompson — combined for 7 points on 2 of 17 shooting.
Thanks to Crawford, the Pelicans bench nearly outscored the starters (41-42), but what this exactly means going forward is anyone’s guess. If New Orleans is going to continue to try and live out on the perimeter too much when they should be utilizing Cousins and Davis on the block, the rest of this season is truly lost. Straying from the team’s biggest strength, and yes that’s on both the players and coaching staff, isn’t a recipe worth following any longer because we’ve seen the outcome of those results all too often.
Up next, the Pelicans come home and will host the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. With the Nuggets prevailing over the Kings tonight, without Nikola Jokic mind you, New Orleans is now 4.5 games in back of the 8th seed with only 18 games left on the schedule. The season is fast approaching a premature end. Hooray?