If one needed more proof of New Orleans recent elimination from the postseason, I give you exhibit A: tonight’s woeful 122-106 loss in Denver.
Three days ago, the Pelicans and Nuggets battled back and forth in a highly entertaining display of basketball for 48 minutes. Tonight was damn near just the opposite. DeMarcus Cousins was out nursing a sore Achilles, Anthony Davis decided to shoot the ball at every opportunity, regardless of his ice-cold stroke, and in general, the effort and teamwork seen for much of the season was noticeably absent.
Understanding the season has switched gears, Alvin Gentry wasn’t visibly upset in his post-game comments. He admitted the Pelicans started off with poor energy and attempted too many shots after just one or two passes, but praised them for making the game competitive at halftime.
Additionally, the head coach conceded, “We were trying to look at certain guys.”
Yep, we’ve been reminded of this exact plan several times before tonight, yet it wasn’t as evident as most would have preferred until the fourth quarter. For instance, fan favorite Cheick Diallo didn’t get into the contest until the start of the final frame. He was asked to bide his time behind Donatas Motiejunas and Alexis Ajinca, who combined for 44 reserve minutes.
Now, there is an unwritten rule that coaches in various sports will give those players who are likely to move onto another team in the offseason playing time so that they can showcase their abilities to potential future employers. However, this doesn’t mean one should keep their prized young talent on the back burner for most of a meaningless game.
Diallo made a ton of mistakes and it appeared he was reprimanded for most of them, but we all witnessed a lot of crappy play.
This possession was fun: let's leave guys wide open, not boxout an offensive rebounder and forget about help defense! pic.twitter.com/6ZOVFwych5— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) April 8, 2017
In my opinion, the biggest offender on the night was Anthony Davis. If the team is in evaluation mode, why on earth did the All-Star launch 27 shots in 24 minutes? He also compounded the problem by failing to set the proper tone defensively, repeatedly demonstrating lackadaisical effort.
Jennifer Hale asked Gentry if Davis was going to play tomorrow against the Golden State Warriors and the coach said that basically he was going to leave it up to AD. Honestly, if I was the head poncho, I’d prod my best player to take the night off. It’s clear he’s checked out for the rest of the season because there’s nothing left to play for outside of adding to useless stat totals.
Quinn Cook was the other reserve most hoped to watch at length, and although he registered 24 minutes, he was really quiet until the fourth, scoring seven of his nine points during the last 12 minutes of the game. No doubt he was partially to blame, as he deferred all too often, but it didn’t help matters that Jordan Crawford took his cue from Davis: lots of quick shots accompanied by too much porous defense. It’s one thing if Crawford is in direct competition with Cook for a spot on next year’s roster, but regardless, Gentry should consider limiting their time together on the court tomorrow night. The front office has precious little evaluation time remaining before they must make a decision on Cook’s tenure.
Next to Davis’ 25 points on 27 shots and Crawford’s 20 on 16 attempts, Ajinca was the next leading scorer with 15. E’Twaun Moore, before leaving the game with an ankle injury, finished with 10 and Jrue Holiday scored nine points and dished out seven assists in 24 minutes.
On the other side of the floor, Jamal Murray had himself a night, dropping a line of 30 points, five assists and four rebounds. And no, he didn’t just relegate himself to the three-point line. Time and again he took it inside and showed off enviable athleticism including this yam over Motiejunas.
Jamal Murray on Donatas Motiejunas in slow motion, good grief man this guy aint just a shooter pic.twitter.com/aY3Sqi7Dju— Heartbroken Wob (@World_Wide_Wob) April 8, 2017
I must mention the Pelicans couldn’t make anything from behind the three-point line, knocking down just three shots out of 23 attempts. Guess it was punishment for all the lousy defense they decided to play tonight!
Anyways, we’re down to three remaining games on the schedule — hopefully they’ll be a little more pleasurable to watch.