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Game On: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Clippers
Second night of a back to back On the road. Against a red-hot Clippers team.
Not an ideal situation tonight for the Pelicans, but there are reasons to be optimistic about this game for New Orleans – most notably the fact that this team has Anthony Davis. In the midst of a frustrating loss last night, Davis gave Pelicans fans something to smile about as he matched his career high with 32 points on 14-18 shooting. He hit jumpers, both facing up and off the dribble. He created havoc on the defensive end and rebounded outside of his area, and most importantly, he showed toughness by playing through a minor shoulder injury that might have kept lesser players out a couple of games.
Look, the playoffs are not a possibility and this team is probably not keeping their pick, but this is by no means a lost season. We are watching the ascension of an all-time great player, and in addition to that, there are some other things to watch for, such as:
1. Get the defense back on track
Over a 15 game stretch in late January through the end of February, the Pelicans were an average defense. Their defensive rating was slightly above average, as was their allowed effective field goal percentage, their defensive rebound rate, and their defensive three-point percentage allowed. But over the last three games, New Orleans has fell back to the bottom of the pack, giving up nearly 116 points per game – including 123 to the Clippers just five days ago.
The rotations have been terrible after improving for that short amount of time and the Pelicans are allowing teams to get whatever shot they want. The Clippers, meanwhile, have been an offensive juggernaut as of late, and there is no way New Orleans will be able to stop them, but if they can contain them for large stretches, that would be a victory in and of itself.
2. Run the Offense through AD down the stretch
If the Pelicans would have continued to work through AD last night, I think most would have taken the loss in stride. But for nearly six key minutes in that final quarter, Davis never took a shot, and barely touched the ball. If this guy is your franchise, win or lose because of him. Get him used to feeling that pressure of touching the ball every time down the court for 8 minutes straight. Let him see what it feels like to take 12 shots in a 4th quarter. This is exactly what the team should be doing over the final 23 games – preparing for situations that will arise in future seasons and working out the kinks now.
3. Tyreke the Facilitator
We saw Tyreke get the start at SF last night, but too often we saw him parked in the corner while Brian Roberts or Eric Gordon ran the offense. This shouldn’t be the case tonight, as Tyreke will likely be defended by players who can’t match up with him physically. Tyreke should run the offense, as he can get into the paint at will and either create for himself or others.
Here's another key, not necessarily to winning, but just to staying competitive. Teams are jumping our ballhandlers at the top of the key, leading to bad cross-court passes and easy breakaway sprints to the other end. So stop dribbling into traps and flinging the ball cross court. Call timeout, or bigs come to the ball and reset the offense. Stop giving other teams Sportscenter highlight reel moments in their arenas to demoralize your severely attritted team. Running more of the offense through Davis helps in this regard as well. And also, forbid Anthony Morrow from putting the ball on the floor when he gets closed lout at the three-point line. No good can ever come of that.