Coming off a much needed win in Detroit, the New Orleans Pelicans squandered a golden opportunity to knock off a bottom tier team, losing 105-102 to the Memphis Grizzlies and dropping their record back an even .500.
The failure to build on the momentum from a previous game should not surprise Pelican fans this season, as many of the team’s best wins have been followed by their worst losses. This loss to the Grizzlies, who now boast a 13-27 record — tied for last in the West, certainly qualifies as one the worst.
After a promising first quarter that saw the Pelicans jump out to an 11-point lead at one point, New Orleans allowed Memphis to fight back and enter halftime with a mere one-point advantage. The Pelicans proceeded to come out of the break lethargic, scoring only 9 points in the 3rd quarter, and found themselves down by double digits in the fourth quarter. Despite a valiant comeback attempt, the Pelicans missed a potential game-tying three pointer in the final second, after turning the ball over with a chance to take the lead on the previous possession.
Hovering at the .500 mark is something Pelican fans are tired of seeing. When looking at a team that seems to be right on the cusp of mediocrity, holding down the final playoff spot in the West, one is forced to choose a side: cup half full or cup half empty. This game can be viewed through the same light.
Cup Half Full
New Orleans played tonight without All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Davis suffered an injury in the last matchup versus Detroit, but is hopeful to compete this upcoming Friday against the Trail Blazers.
Davis was truly missed by the Pelicans on the court: the team was -10 on the boards and outscored in the paint by 20 points. If there is one thing the Pelicans can point to in this loss, it’s how badly they were beaten in the painted area.
The guard play in the game was seemingly even across the board. Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, and surprisingly, Ian Clark, all ended the game in double digits — usually a recipe for success for the Pelicans. While the team in general struggled to score from the three-point line, they still outshot the Grizzlies, and in certain stretches, the perimeter defense really shined.
The Pelicans were also able to minimize the turnover problem they have had most of this season. Despite the losing effort, the Pelicans only had 12 turnovers on the night— a mark that usually when coupled with 20+ assists means a victory. Not tonight.
DeMarcus Cousins will once again be heavily featured in cup half full/cup half empty. There is no doubt that the team would have lost without him and his 31 points and eight rebounds. Boogie went 5/8 from 3-point range, a huge part of closing the deficit in the fourth, and managed to rack up 17 free throws on the night, but…
Cup Half Empty
…Cousins found himself in a big position in the end of the game, with the ball in his hands. Down by one with 15 seconds left, Cousins has got to get a shot off. Instead, he lodged one of his five turnovers.
On a night without Anthony Davis, the Pelicans were in desperate need for someone to come in and own the paint. Cousins seemed much more inclined to pace around the three-point line. He should always finish with more rebounds than he does attempted threes — tonight he did not.
Despite Cousin’s struggles in the first quarter, the team started out very well, taking a 10-point lead. While Boogie started 2-10 from the field, the other players on the court picked up the slack — Boogie roaming the 3 point line allowed Holiday, Moore, and Rondo to attack the paint. Issues arise when this game plan comes to a grinding halt. The Pelicans scored a measly 9 points in the 3rd quarter!!! In that frame, they launched nine three-pointers but only four shots in the paint. Boogie didn’t register shot inside the paint for the entire 12 minutes.
Anyone who has watched a Pelicans game this season knows this team is highly susceptible to bouts of apathy. Tonight was no exception. This is a hard topic to write about because there is no single stat that best measures hustle, but it was quite evident to be lacking all too often.
The biggest negative to take away from this game, though, might be the bench. Without Boogie on the floor, the Pelicans were rendered useless. Omer Asik looked like the Asik of old, Jameer Nelson didn’t put up any points, and new free agent acquisition DeAndre Liggins put up the worst +/- of anyone on the court.
The Pelicans have some soul searching to do before an important conference game tips on Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Hopefully, with just a little more water, this team can convince us once more to choose half full.