Pelicans Squeak by Boston, Ryno Gets Hurt

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Published: January 3, 2014
Game Recap Win 4

Good NBA teams should be assassins. Good NBA teams would see a Boston team on the second night of a back to back and lick their chops.

The Pelicans are trying to be a good team. Truly, they are. But they have so far to go. They have only beaten 2 teams with winning records, and now that the Nuggets have hit a skid, the Blazers remain the only winning team that the Pelicans have beaten.

What is recorded as a win surely feels like a loss, as the Pelicans lost Ryan Anderson early in the 4th quarter to what is being described as a cervical stinger. Boston Celtics player Gerald Wallace unintentionally blitzed Ryan Anderson on an inbounds pass from Brian Roberts. We will be sure to update you guys on his condition as we receive news, and Ryno is certainly in our prayers. He has been a model citizen and a model player for the team. Get well soon, Ryno.

The engine of our offense, Jrue Holiday, was stifled all game by Avery Bradley’s unrelenting pressure. That guy is just a freak of nature, and he suffocated Jrue tonight. I’d blame Jrue if I hadn’t seen Bradley do the same thing to some elite players. He’s that good at defending the ball.

The Pelicans trotted out a starting lineup of Holiday, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, and Alexis Ajinca, with Ajinca making his first start as a Pelican. It left a lot to be desired.

I don’t know why Monty chose to limit the minutes of our key players in the first half. The only logical explanation I can come up with is that he was trying to save their legs for tomorrow’s game at Indiana. While the bench put up a solid +/-, I think the Pelicans missed a huge opportunity to stomp on the Celtics early and coast to the end.

And that’s where the “assassin” mentality comes in. The Pelicans aren’t smart enough to out-execute teams at the margins. If there’s a chance to blow out an inferior team, it should be taken. And I think it was there tonight.

Instead, Monty chose to roll out his bench unit for an extended period in the 2nd quarter. It did fine, but again, it’s not about analyzing what the unit did versus the Celtics bench as much as it’s about analyzing what could have been done if Monty played starters more early. Specifically, I am talking about Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, who each played only 12 minutes in the first half. Neither was in foul trouble.

The probability of winning on the second night of a back to back against Indiana is optimistically 10, 15%. They’re already a superior team. If we beat them, excellent, but quite frankly, I expect we’ll get beaten regardless of what we do. And really, that’s okay. You don’t become a dominant team overnight.

Why does that matter? Well, instead of stepping on the gas pedal versus Boston (a game in which we had the favorable circumstances), we relented, and we nearly lost the game.

The shape and flow of an NBA game is dictated by minor details, and the devil has been comfortable living in those details all year for the Pelicans. Again and again, Pelicans players continue to make life harder on themselves by doing or not doing some pretty simple things. Here are some of them.

  • Don’t bring your arms down when you’re trying to block a shot. Every fan who watched  > 2 minutes of last year’s NBA playoffs should know this, as Reggie Miller did his best to trademark the word “verticality” every other possession of every Indiana game. If you bring your arms down, you are going to get called for a foul.
  • Stupid fouls kill you. The Pelicans defense is disadvantaged as it is. Boston struggled to make shots all night, but got into the bonus because of stupid fouls that the Pelicans committed.
  • When you are on a fast break, the ball-handler should be in the middle of the court and other players should stay wide so one opposing defender can’t guard two players. Oh, and don’t dribble the ball off your foot when you have a 3 v 1 break.
  • As soon as an opponent shoots, you need to find someone to put a body on. The Pelicans allowed an egregious 22 offensive rebounds tonight. This is inexcusable.

By the way, all NBA players should know this by now. I’ve already criticized Monty: his players should have learned these things lonnnnnng before they even came close to sniffing an NBA court.

Notes and Observations from tonight

  • As I mentioned in the preview, the Celtics are excellent defending the 3 point line. The Pelicans only took 6 3 point attempts tonight, and after Ryno went down, any chance of spacing died.
  • The Pelicans were again given fewer free throws than their opponents, but at least tonight the disparity could be swallowed. The Pelicans earned 22 and the Celtics earned 28.
  • Greg Stiemsma came close to matching a career high in points, but the majority of his points came off of easy looks from other guys. In particular, Brian Roberts did a good job of setting up the Steamer.
  • The Pelicans continue to get pushed around by the bullies that are other teams’ frontcourts. Other bigs are stealing their lunch money and the Pelicans bigs are getting left with those stupid, triangled cheese sandwiches that their friends don’t want.
  • Anthony Davis put up a really solid line tonight, but he’s gotta do a better job boxing out. He also had a beautiful lefty hook over Brandon Bass late in the game. I swooned.
  • Someone needs to send a memo to the Pelican guards to find Davis on rolls to the basket. For every alley-oop he has, he could have 3 more.
  • Tyreke Evans is a bowling ball. Teams know exactly what he’s going to do with the ball, but most still can’t stop him. He did have 5 turnovers tonight, though.