Pelicans Suffer Another Tough Loss, This Time to Houston

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Published: December 28, 2013

It is becoming a reoccurring story – The Pelicans get another “moral victory” against a playoff-bound team. The home opener against Indiana was one such victory. Golden State at home, Portland on the road, and then again tonight at Houston, with their 107-98 loss. In all of these games, the Pelicans held leads late and simply weren’t able to close out the more experienced teams. Understandably, fans are getting tired of these moral victories, but sooner than later they will be a thing of the past.

The Pelicans simply didn’t have an answer for Dwight Howard tonight, as he scored 24 points on 12 shots and grabbed 18 rebounds. Ryan Anderson battled him for most of the game, with Davis and Ajinca getting shots at him as well, but nobody could keep him out of the paint. He had just as big of an impact on the defensive end, as he prevented numerous ‘Kobe Assists.’ Both Jrue and Tyreke missed a handful of layups tonight, and usually the Pelicans crash the boards and lay those back in, but not tonight. Not with Dwight on the floor.

But despite Dwight’s dominance, the Rockets won this game on the free throw line, where they outshot the Pelicans 32-8. The Rockets as a team had just 11 fouls (25 for New Orleans), meaning the Pelicans never even got close to sniffing the bonus. The Rockets jumpers weren’t falling, but they didn’t need to tonight, as they got 58 points in the paint and 15 at the line. You might get a “moral victory’ if your defense is that bad, but you won’t get any real ones.

Other Notes and Observations

– Numerous times, Dwight backed a Pelicans defender under the rim, and instead of fouling him they let him dunk. The team knows he is a 54% FT shooter, right?

– Aminu hit three jumpers, including two 3’s. At some point it is not a fluke anymore. Maybe Aminu is finally turning into a respectable outside shooter.

РSpeaking of bad shooters gone good, Tyreke Evans made two 3-pointers but missed 9 shots in the paint. A bit of a backwards night for him.

– Jrue Holiday had his worst offensive showing as a Pelican. He missed easy shots, made terrible decisions on his passes, and missed a key free throw down the stretch. Defending James Harden (which he did well) took a lot out of him and it really impacted his offensive game.

– The only player in plus/minus that was positive for the Pelicans? Austin Rivers, who was +11 in his 12 minutes. He knocked down some shots, but what impressed me the most was his speed and control when closing out on D. Has he done enough to take Roberts minutes now? Please?!

– Anthony Morrow bricked his first open shot and airballed his second wide open corner three. After that his confidence was shot and he refused to shoot again. Wisely, Monty didn’t put him back into the game in the second half.

– Ryan Anderson had a great game tonight, but most fans will probably remember the terrible shot he took with a minute left and the Pelicans down 5. It was a step back three that missed the rim, and after the Rockets went down and scored the game was effectively over.

– Sometimes it looks so easy – Throw the ball at the rim and let AD go and get it. But Tyreke seems to be the only guy who looks for him on a regular basis. 18 points on 14 shots for AD tonight. He should have got 18-20 shots.

– Jason Smith returned tonight and gave the Pelicans a spark in the first half, scoring 8 points in limited minutes. He slowed down a bit in the second half, but finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds in just 15 minutes. If he can play 15-20 minutes against second units, he will be far more effective for this team.

– Ajinca has size, but his agility is lacking. Against a team like Houston, it is hard to get him minutes. On one play, Dwight just went around him like he was standing in quick sand. Luckily, not every team has a Dwight. Portland is up next and Ajinca should fare well against the Robin Lopez’s and Joel Freeland’s of the world.

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