Pelicans lose Nail Biter in Portland

Published: December 22, 2013

There are 24 letters between A and Z. In order to get from the beginning of the alphabet to the end, you have to go through all those letters, even if you think some of them are unnecessary (like Q). In sports, it is a similar process. You just don’t go from bad to good overnight; it’s a process. First came the tear down phase, then the rebuild, and now the team is learning to win. Unfortunately for fans, we have to go through games like this to get to Z. It was a painful ending, but if you look at the big picture, there is more good than bad here.

The Trailblazers defeated the Pelicans 110-107 behind 29 points from Damian Lillard and balanced scoring from the rest of the starters. Both teams went on numerous runs and had leads of more than 10 at different points of the game. Anthony Davis tied the game at 101 with 3:14 left, and from there the teams went back and forth exchanging big shot after big shot. Damian Lillard made the two biggest players, drawing a charge on Jrue Holiday with the Pelicans and then coming down on the next play and training a big three. The Pelicans never had the lead again.

Overall, it was what we all expected – an offensive shootout that went back and forth. But at the end of the day, the Blazers were just a little bit too much at home. Still, the Pelicans took another step tonight. Before you know it, games like this will go our way, and nights like this will be a distant memory.

Notes and Observations

– With Jason Smith unable to go due to a bruised knee, Alexis Ajinca got a chance to play and he played well. In 17 minutes, he did what every other Pelicans 4th big does, he picked up a bunch of fouls and had a few head scratching turnovers. But unlike the other guys we have tried out there, he looked competent offensively and owned the glass with 11 rebounds. We can’t realistically expect him to play like this every night, but there is some reason to hope that our 4th big has been found.

– Tyreke Evans will one day understand the nuances of this game, and if he gets his basketball IQ up to average before his current contract ends, he will be vastly underpaid. But for now this team has to live with him making three or four head scratching blunders a night. Tonight, he got lost on a couple of inbounds plays and sailed a key pass into the 5th row.  On another play, he had two options: Anthony Davis for a dunk or Austin Rivers for a kick out three. Guess which one he chose? Dell and Monty knew that he had a long way to go when they signed him. With patience, he will get there.

– I have never blamed the refs this year, not even in the Clippers game when it would have been easy to. But the end of the second quarter tonight was unreal. The Pelicans were up 49-36 with four minutes left and then they had to play 8-on-5 for the rest of the half. After four egregious no calls, the Pelicans lead was down to just 1 at the half. Go watch those final four minutes again…if you dare!

– It seemed like the Pelicans were dominated on the boards, but the stats tell a different stories. The difference is that the Blazers turned their offensive rebounds into points, outscoring the Pelicans on second chance points by 12 despite only grabbing one more offensive board.

– The Pelicans guards and wings were a combined 2-9 from three tonight against a team that isn’t exactly a juggernaut on defense. They had plenty of space, but they just refused to rise up and shoot them. Meanwhile, if you give anybody on the Blazers an inch, they launch the shot. The only guy on the Pelicans who does that is Ryan Anderson. The teams ran very similar offensive sets, the only difference was that the Trailblazers guards were willing to take the shots that Pelicans guards weren’t.

– Austin Rivers defended Lillard well for the most part, but there isn’t much else I can say that is positive. One play stands out in particular, as Lillard got past Rivers and shot a runner over Davis. The rebound came off long, and would have gone to Rivers, but he just froze and stared at the ball. Lillard got his own miss and put it back up as Rivers fouled him. A big three point play in a three point game.

– Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson started the game together and the Pelicans got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 20-9 lead. By next year, this should be the norm, not the exception.

– When you go 0-2 from the free throw line, it is essentially equivalent to a turnover. Add an extra turnover to Evans and Davis’s box scores tonight.

– 1-4 was always the expected outcome on this roadtrip. Get a win in Sacramento and come back home to pay back Denver for the loss at the beginning of this trip and the Pelicans are back on track. +.500 by New Years should be the goal, and then you go from there.


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