The New Orleans Pelicans put on a rather uninspiring performance on Sunday in their loss to the Chicago Bulls. DeMarcus Cousins said they lacked a certain seriousness in his post game comments. Despite all that I took quite a bit of positives from the game. It isn't all that surprising that a team all but eliminated (the next Portland win or New Orleans loss serves as the final nail in the coffin) from the playoffs. This is natural in the NBA and not something I would be quick to lay at Alvin Gentry's feet.
However, for all the poor execution and ragged defense the Pelicans stayed in the game thanks to living at the foul line. Going forward this ability to battle through bad play by riding Anthony Davis and Boogie getting to the foul line so damn much will pay dividends. It will turn games that were almost certain losses into competitive affairs and even occasionally victories. In essence this provides another avenue to win ugly, one that was not present when Davis was the only Pelican capable of consistently getting to the charity stripe.
As a long time advocate of tanking I’m here to tell everyone it doesn’t matter at this point. It’s too late to tank effectively and the Pelicans have too many wins already for it to matter all that much. If New Orleans was going to tank they needed to do so sooner.
Coming up the Pels face the Denver Nuggets in consecutive games. A couple wins could all but guarantee Portland a spot in the playoffs while losses could make the final race for the 8th spot very interesting. Beyond all else these games, with three tremendously skilled big men in Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Nikola Jokic, have the potential for serious entertainment value. Hopefully the coaching staff can find ample opportunity to get Cheick Diallo and Quinn Cook extended minutes in the last five games of the season.
Last Week: 19 - This Week: 18
In their first 10 games together, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were a minus-24, with the Pelicans scoring a paltry 91.1 points per 100 possessions in their 200 minutes. In their last six games together, Davis and Cousins are a plus-59, with the Pels scoring 111.6 points per 100 possessions in those 156 minutes. That stretch coincides with Tim Frazier moving back into the starting lineup alongside Jrue Holiday, even though Frazier has shot 33 percent since the move. They're figuring things out and with four of their last five games against bottom-10 defenses, the strong offensive numbers should continue.
Last Week: 21 - This Week: 19
Anthony Davis suffered an ankle sprain Sunday night, but he played through it and wound up totaling 30 points and 11 boards in a loss to the Bulls, which is hardly insignificant given the durability concerns that plagued The Brow throughout his first four NBA seasons. For the first time in his career, in fact, Davis has crossed the 70-game threshold for the season and has done so without much fanfare, delivering night after night after night for a team that, despite its recent (and unexpected) 8-4 uptick that realistically came too late, will be officially eliminated from playoff contention if Portland can win in Minnesota on Monday night. What the future holds in New Orleans for DeMarcus Cousins, for Jrue Holiday, for Alvin Gentry ... all unknowns. Yet I think it's safe to say that the guy who scored 52 points in the All-Star Game couldn't have done much more for his team (or his city) in 2016-17.
Last Week: 18 - This Week: 19
Overall, this second half has been good for the Pelicans, who with the appropriate tinkering should certainly be in playoff contention next season. The question is whether this was enough to keep Alvin Gentry in place. Boogie Cousins, for one, might appreciate some coaching continuity, but the stakes are especially high with this experiment.
Last Week: 20 - This Week: 17
Lot of questions about this summer. Who's the right coach for Boogie-Brow? Do they retain Jrue Holiday? Do they need a total revamp? And what's this about Joe Dumars, again?