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.


  1. ByronMarcusWashington

    December 22, 2013 at 12:54 am

    You recapped exactly what i was thinking as i watched the waning moments of this game, This was a HUGE step up, i really liked what i saw from ajenca. Davis is a man out there, just wish they would learn to throw him the ball wen he calls for it down there. The team for the most part stepped up when it counted. Morrow is better than everyone gives him credit for. When they took him out i couldnt figure out why when he was clearly the best shooting guard for the pels at the time…. then Gordon came in, and i knew even though we were up, we would lose somehow. Im not even a Gordon Hater, but it was the look in his eyes like he didnt really want to be there. Damian Lillard is legit. I never wanted to believe that. Evans… I guess if you truly want to transform him into a ginobili type player, you have to take the good with the bad just like ginobili. But he was still pretty good. I love the way we can see this team growing together. It wasnt a signature win, but i guess a signature loss that we can hopefully look back on in a few games after a win streak and say thats where it started to turn around a bit for the pels.

  2. Nithenz

    December 22, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Again and again…why didnt we go for a two for one in the last 3X seconds of the game and shoot with less than 24 a desperation shot…next move…to waste 40% of the clock (8/22 secs) to avoid fouling Lillard to do it to Batum….This is starting to feel like the Mike Woodson show…sad….

  3. Sportnlyfe

    December 22, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Saw Ajinca in Eurobasket and was surprised that he was still available. He seems to have some decent defensive ability, has good hands when deciding what to do with the ball, and seems that he can make a difference just by rebounding and rim protecting. Let’s give Dell some credit for the pickup. Ajinca would solve a lot of lineup issues in the front court, giving the team 4 bigs who can be a presence on both ends. AD is still a few games away on his timing, but Sacramento could be the cure. 
    I was shocked at how easily Lillard scored over Jrue, but that step-back jumper all the way out to 3-point range makes it difficult for a defender to take anything away from him. This would have been a Pelicans win, still, if Lopez didn’t have a solid game in the middle. Maybe he was upset because Brook has a bobo, and now he’s Mom’s favorite child. 
    I could be wrong, but I thought the game turned when Aminu didn’t get as much floor time from the second quarter on. He was rebounding well and getting the ball into transition when the Pels built their early lead, but I don’t remember him playing much in the second half, when the Blazers not only seemed to get every loose ball, but also scored on almost all their second chances.

  4. bucklezzzman

    December 22, 2013 at 4:46 am

    Nithenz except this is the youngest team in the league still really learning how to play and win together.. not a veteran team (Knicks) entering the year expecting a title run

  5. Nithenz

    December 22, 2013 at 7:12 am

    bucklezzzman Nithenz Dont tell me you need to be a veteran in the NBA to understand the notion of a two for one in the last 35 seconds….even high schoolers knows that…I guess that if you check Holiday’s play in the last 35 secs of games in Philly he used it, my guess is that this is a coaching decision…just like Mike W latests bloopers at end of games.

  6. PelicanSaints

    December 22, 2013 at 8:14 am

    It was nice to see what a legit 7 footer can do for this team….even though they lost,it was encouraging to see them take a top team to the gun….D. Pillars is legit, I think Jrue was puzzled on how to slow him down

  7. Papa Pelican

    December 22, 2013 at 8:36 am

    The Cardiac Pelicans flatline like always.

  8. Papa Pelican

    December 22, 2013 at 8:39 am

    If the Pels have to redo the draft again.Would the Pels choose Lilliard over Davis at #1?

  9. Papa Pelican

    December 22, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Gordon have to be traded the guy is healthy there is no excuse of trading him.

  10. adfly

    December 22, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I was loving the lineup of holiday, Evans, morrow, Davis, ajinca. The defence was actually good with that lineup. I think Monty should have rode that lineup to the 2 minute mark rather than the 4 minute mark. Once Anderson and Gordon came the momentum went to Portland the owls couldn’t get stops and rebounds from there. That made a big difference down the stretch

  11. Larry Lemoine

    December 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Michael you posted “+500 by New Years”. The Pels have the Kings, Denver, Houston and Portland left before the end of the year and they are 3 games under 500. They would have to win all 4 remaining games to get over 500 by year end. No likely.

  12. 504ever

    December 22, 2013 at 10:10 am

    High schoolers don’t play with a shot clock!

  13. Papa Pelican

    December 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Yes outsiders our fanbase is so mush like the Knicks sad.

  14. Sports_Guy

    December 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Eric gordon is a stain on this team. Its obvious he doesn’t want to be here at all. He plays little physical defense. You can tell his heart is just not in this team. HE NEEDS TO GO. Either this season or trade him for a draft pick in this stacked draft

  15. Michael McNamara

    December 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Larry Lemoine and Minnesota on New Years. I see 4-1 in the next 5 games. Possibly 5-0 if they can shock Houston. Maybe its not likely, but if they can play like they did in stretches last night, it is possible

  16. Nithenz

    December 22, 2013 at 11:52 am

    504ever And even they understand a 2 for 1… Guess i will have to add more sarcasm next time for everyone to notice it…

  17. Nithenz

    December 22, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Papa Pelican no way… At least i wouldnt

  18. Nithenz

    December 22, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Another doubt i have….Werent we supposed to be fighting Portland for the last couple of playoff spots? What is the difference between this portland team and ours? I cant remember them doing any trade lately that could have revamped them so much to be this good. Is it players stepping up? is it a coaching difference? Is it the schedule (ours was suposed to be an easy one) The injuries (yup, this may be the only difference, i think i heard they havent had any injury to their core)? Is that a 10.5 games difference?
    And this is not meant to trash Monty, the team, or specific players, but cant figure it out why they have been so good and we have been so….ummmm…so so…

  19. dxxpxx

    December 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I wonder game after game why Monty leaves key players on the bench for too long in the 4th quarter. this game he had Jrue sitting on the bench til bout the 5 minute mark. 4th quarter is winning time, give your best players a chance to win the game. he can’t expect guys to come in at the very end and save the day. Not putting this one on coach I’m jus stuck wondering this same thing every close game

  20. Singular

    December 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I’m past the point of calling for Monty’s head because he has shown some ability to adapt the team’s playing style to the talent he has as evidenced by the team’s increased pace.  One thing I’d like to see him get better with is his use of time outs, though.
    At the end of the first half, Portland went on a run to completely erase a 13 pt deficit and he never called a time out to slow their momentum.  The elite NBA coaches would call a timeout in that situation.  We didn’t lose the game because of that failure to call a time out, but by not calling it, he didn’t give his team the best chance to win the game.  I’ve seen him do that before in other games this year and in past seasons and it’s something he needs to improve to get better as a coach.

  21. LateNite504FC

    December 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    They have a talented young team and inserted of firing the coach and blowing up the roster after a disappointing season, they realized they had a good roster and just made some small moves to add Lopez and bench players.
    Now they are maturing, staying healthy (no starter has missed a game this season) and reaping the rewards of being patient. I don’t think they will be in the Finals, but I think they are here to stay as West playoff teams.
    Maybe the Pels can learn from this story. Could easily be Pels next year.

  22. Major504

    December 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Nithenz Portland is the only team to have the same strating 5 every game this yr. We have yet to have a game with the full foster. But I see good things in the near future.

  23. SamuelWhoDatWilcher

    December 22, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    A good article for us to discuss.  Please read and provide some feedback.  I thing a Combo of Rivers and Roberts would be one area for us to sure up and maybe Jackson is the answer.

  24. SamuelWhoDatWilcher

    December 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Papa Pelican No way and i love D Lillard but we have the guy we need in AD.

  25. mateor

    December 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Papa Pelican Not even for two Dame Lilliards. That is crazy. No way. I think the only player you swap for Anthony Davis is Lebron James. And even Lebron is getting old.
    Anthony Davis is the surest thing in the NBA right now. (/purposefully avoiding injury discussions)

  26. 504ever

    December 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    SamuelWhoDatWilcher This is an interesting idea, but to me it may make more sense for next season.  If we don’t call up Jackson this year, his NBA contact doesn’t start until next year (which is good).  Also, Rivers contract is guaranteed for this year, and I believe Robert’s is, too. So how do you make a spot for Jackson when you have to carry so many guards?

  27. Papa Pelican

    December 23, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I like Davis and he’s worth the pick.At the same time Lillard is the real deal and PG’s like him don’t come that often it’s like very 2 to 6 years of that happening.Carter-Williams from this years draft is good but in 3 years an top 5 guard.The biggest flaw with Lillard is his character Lillard is a high risk and high reward.

  28. mateor

    December 24, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Papa Pelican what the hell is wrong with his character? You and I care about different things in basketball players I guess.

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