Pelicans Don’t Blow a Lead, Beat the Jazz

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Published: November 20, 2013
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It’s okay to stop holding your breath, Pelicans fans. Your team beat the Utah Jazz tonight, and avenged an ugly loss a week ago, 105-98. The Pelicans led for most of the game and, despite what a bit of a Jazz run in the middle of the 3rd seemed to suggest, avoided a 4th quarter collapse and really closed the game out in the end.

While it was New Orleans’ second straight victory, this wasn’t exactly a tremendous game for Monty Williams’ men. In the opening quarter the team shot only 35% from the field. Luckily, the Jazz were equally bad shooting even worse. If the Pelicans get off to bad starts like this against a good team expect them to struggle as they attempt to come from behind. Defensively, well, yeah that’s still going to be the downfall of this team, but there was improvement!

Things turned around for New Orleans once Ryan Anderson stepped on the court. He carried over his hot shooting and was a constant threat while he was in. But we all knew the team would look different while he was still back; instead there are other areas to examine.

Lets go with the good first. Jrue Holiday remembered he was great at finishing at the rim. Tonight he looked to attack as is evidenced by all of his points coming in the paint. This type of play is going to set his teammates up for more success as well. Drive and kicks, back door cuts, etc. all become more open if teams try to take away looks at the rim. Holiday has been settling too much for mid range jumpers, and he’s been having some success with that shot, but he has tremendous ability to get inside and score. Obviously, this is something he needs to do more often.

Al-Farouq Aminu quietly had a nice offensive game tonight. He often tries to force shots when he gets the ball inside but tonight he realized those are bad looks and instead passed to teammates. He found Davis twice, once on a back door cut and the other for an open jumper. He finished the night with four assists and it was all due to just playing smart basketball.

Monty Williams made some adjustments tonight. That’s been a big and fair area of criticism against him this season. In the second half tonight, he let Austin Rivers take Brian Roberts’ minutes. Roberts was struggling leading the second unit and it was nice to see Monty recognize that. Rivers came in and, while he had two bad turnovers, ran the offense well. He was making the correct pass and really led fast breaks well.

Now the defense.

This was the big culprit in last week’s loss. So what was different?

Monty recognized that the Jazz’ biggest offense threat is Gordon Hayward, and he did what he could to force other players to beat his team. Mostly, it worked. Hayward finished a horrific 1 of 17 on the night. He did finish with 11 assists since he recognized he wasn’t open to shoot and found a teammate who, more often than not, was. Call it a good bad game for him.

Another wrinkle was the Pelicans running a zone defense to try and stem the bleeding caused by opponents running pick and rolls against them. Used in stretches this causes teams to take an extra moment to see what the defense is doing and also generally clogs the paint to take away shots at the rim. This is all great because opponents have been finding the roll man far too much against New Orleans.

But it also comes with a price. While it will help with the pick and roll defense, quick passing against a zone often leads to open 3-point shooters. Have you watched this team this season or last? Is that something the Pelicans really need happening against them even more? The Jazz took 24 attempts from deep and the Pelicans were lucky they only connected on 8 of them as many were wide open. There are teams the Pelicans will not matchup well with and the defense will be stuck in a lose/lose situation with whatever they do.

But the fact that Monty just tried something different is promising. He knows something is wrong and took steps to correct it. Whether those are the right steps or not will remain to be seen.

17 comments
Pluto D
Pluto D

Frustrating 1st half as the Jazz had many wide open 3s, luckily they missed them. But the 2nd half looked better with rotations and limiting open shots, despite a bunch of 3s made in the 3rd quarter. Whether it was intentional or not, the Pelicans did a good job of "baiting" the Jazz into taking mid range jumpers after closing out on the 3 and occasionally packing the paint successfully. I'd love to see that more often.

It's not saying much tho considering we were playing the Jazz. But I'll take any amount of progress. However there were still alot of breakdowns where we let a guy get to the rim without any resistance. COMMUNICATE!!!

Last time we played the Jazz I went on a big angry tirade. I methodically tore down this coaching staff and spread alot of negativity. While some of it was justified, I regret doing that. Monty can frustrate me, but I don't want his head on a silver platter. I WANT him to be the coach of this team, I just hope he can adjust as the players develop. 

The mistake I made when I said that Monty's teams weren't good defensively was that we've had very different rosters over his tenure here. Its gotta be a tough job when you have to preach to a new choir every season. Firing Monty will just fluster our players and cause disruption, not what these young guys need right now. If the front office decides Monty isn't the right fit for this team, we can always wait til the offseason. There's plenty of time to evaluate this roster, our best players are locked in for the next 2-4 years. 

It's still very early in the season. We are the youngest team in the league (I love saying that). More importantly, the teams we are competing against for a playoff spot are struggling too. We're tied for 10th in the West, only 1.5 games behind the 8th seed. And teams like Dallas and Portland have had easy schedules, they've just managed to actually win those games. It could be worse guys. At least we're not the Knicks, or the Nets, or the Rockets. They are supposed to be championship contenders and they have come out looking like pansies!

Lastly, Austin Rivers is too good defensively to ride the bench. He looked great last night and ran the offense well and brought some very crucial energy. Still making some bad mistakes but seeing as how we could use more defense, he needs more minutes. His limited minutes against Trey Burke were very impressive and he is smart about where to place his body. Would love to see him take the backup PG role permanently. With Tyreke and Ryno off the bench, we really don't need Brian Roberts' scoring that much.

504ever
504ever

I am happy we won, but mindful that Hayward was 1-17.  If he had an normal efficiency of 1point/shot, we would have won by 1 point, all other things being equal!

Come On Pelican
Come On Pelican

I see a lot of positives from last night's game: (1) the Pelicans overcame a barrage of 4 consecutive 3 pointers by the Jazz in the 3rd quarter that in the past would have caused our team's knees to buckle and from which they hadn't recovered in the past. Coming back from that is a step in the right direction. (2) The Pelicans won despite an atrocious free throw shooting night; that's an aberration and easily correctible. (3) After missing the preseason, Tyreke Evans is finally beginning to show what he can do for this team. (4) Ryno is back. Enough said. (5) Somebody has clearly been working with and coaching up AD23, and it shows. The massive improvement he's shown on the court from his first season is truly amazing. If -- and I say if -- Monty and his coaching staff are responsible for that, then that's a huge plus for our coaches. (6) Lou made a basket. (7) Austin Rivers had a pretty decent 11 minutes. Though his stats don't blow you away, he really seemed to gel with the other Pelicans who were on the court with him last night. (8) Eric Gordon is still healthy and therefore potential trade bait. (9) Free McDonald's fries for everyone with a game ticket.

xman20002000
xman20002000

I never thought I would say it but Okafor might work for this team.... 

mojart
mojart

another win....a beautiful day in pelicans universe.....time to beat those cavs next

Jason Quigley
Jason Quigley

It sucks that we've gotten to the point where the title has to include the fact that they didn't screw up. 

How about some positives? Another near triple-double for Davis. Another great night by Anderson, as well as Evans off the bench. Evans looks so much more confident driving now. And he and Holiday picked up some of Gordon's slack. 

The whole game I felt like we should have been winning by a lot more points, like the Jazz may have been up at one point but they weren't even close. I just wish it wouldn't have taken until the 4th quarter for us to pull away. The Jazz actually played a good game. We were lucky, as you said, that they only made that many threes after taking 24. Hayward couldn't throw it in the ocean but he kept shooting. So would we have lost by 10 had they made more threes? Or would we have adjusted? What matters is that we did what we had to do in this game situation and had an overall good night (we won!). 

xman20002000
xman20002000

On a positive note I think the importance of this game is the Hornets went out with a plan to beat this team and were able to implement... Frankly our second unit is constructed to come in and keep us in games and sustain drives..  What's missing.. our Bigs are shooting mid range jump shots.. and making them but we are light in the paint..

We would be crazy to give up Anderson for Asik..  different levels of talent...  and scoring...  Anderson just has a manageable contract and a good deal for his second deal...  But Asik is a terrible contract to take on with a balloon next year or the following...  a rumor but it would be nice to get Asik...  keeping Anderson...

Anyway we found a way to win... beating a team that we should beat...  It's all good... and at some point individual players will get hot...  and we can dominate...  

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

Some of those turned into second chance points already, right?

Don't over count!

Pluto D
Pluto D

@xman20002000 

And alot of other bigs "might" work for this team. I'll pass on Okafor, he's undersized and IMO not athletic enough for this team, doesn't seem to play with intensity. And he's past his prime, there are definitely other bigs we can look at

wilthomas178
wilthomas178

@xman20002000 EXACTLY!!!!

For a decent price, and what he brings to the table, he is exactly what this team will need down the line, and he should be their prime FA target next year...along with a sign a trade for Luol Deng 

RobertWelch
RobertWelch

@xman20002000 ESPN has an article on Asik and the trouble that Houston has with what to do with him. The possible Anderson trade is examined, and the bottom line is the contracts don't match up well. It would be a bad trade for the Pelicans. The benefits that Anderson gives on the floor at worst matches the benefits Asik would give, but the Asik contract has a poison pill of $15 million balloon in another year, and is a year shorter than Anderson's. Meanwhile, Anderson's contract is quite reasonable, for the Pelicans at least. So given that the benefits of the two players to the team is at least comparable, though very different, the contracts aren't. This means a trade would not benefit the Pelicans, and thus is very unlikely to happen. It would probably require a 3rd team to get in on the deal, and the trade would need to be expanded in some way, to include other players, to make it worthwhile. There is time for something like that to develop, but there is nothing obvious along those lines currently.

loudlikepat
loudlikepat

I agree fully, but I must give you a dick punch for calling us the hornets, lol.

504ever
504ever

@Jason Calmes  Well I tried to take that into account by using an efficiency rating of 1 for Hayward, rather than Hayward's actual efficiency (before the Pelican's game) of 1.185.  

Utah only has an offensive rebounding rate of 28% and a team scoring efficiency of 0.92.  The exact math is an average of 4 points were scored off of all of Hayward's misses in the game and Hayward would have actually scored 3 more points using his true offensive efficiency.  So it's basically a wash.

Pluto D
Pluto D

@RobertWelch @xman20002000 

It's almost like the national media is hoping that by constantly talking about this imaginary Anderson-for-Asik trade, it will actually come true. Yeah, you wish. 

Like Robert said, the benefits Anderson gives us offensively is equal to or better than the benefits Asik could give us defensively. And if it's true that Asik is set to get 15 mil next year, this is a joke. You're gonna pay 15 mil to a guy that's good on defense but an absolute black hole offensively? He's possibly worse than Greg Steimsma on offense. And it's not like Ryno is a black hole on defense either. He can at least hold his own and take charges

Pelican Poster
Pelican Poster

@RobertWelch @xman20002000 It has been said in the past that the details of Asik's contract belie that kind of cap hit...I want to say it was somehow spread out...regardless I don't like the trade either...

Was a little envious I admit, to seeing some effective big bodies on the other team...Kanter really has gotten better offensively...if we had a guy like Monroe we'd really be hummin'...

Lastly, I agree that I was pleased to see a little something different defensively in the second with the 2-3 zone...I thought it worked better for the most part then watching them get burned for open shots at the rim on the pick and roll...Utah did have many an opening on the pick and roll tonight, but they just missed getting the roll man the ball most times, even when they were open...

macs21
macs21

@Pelican Poster deal is spread out so the value of his contract is even over 3 years. His contract is set up to be 5/5/15 from a monetary perspective so that means the cap hit is about 8.5 mil per season.

However, Houston have only had to pay 5 mil per season at this point and his remaining cash would be pro-rated over however much of the season is left when he gets traded. Therefore, the hornets would be paying anywhere upwards of about 17 mil for 1.5 season of Asik. Definitely not worth it in my books, particularly when you sacrifice the second best stretch big in the league to get him.

If they add in Terrence Jones then maybe we can talk