Suns Execute Down Stretch, Outlast Pelicans

What a bizarre day. The Pelicans reported that Jrue Holiday will be out for the rest of the season after he underwent successful surgery. This piece of news left me in a terrible mood, and after an hour of moping around and playing NHL 14, I decided to try to move past it.

A couple hours later, my sister called me and told me to check Twitter. Nakia Hogan had reported a couple bits of interesting news.

Tyreke’s Reaction

There have been a few stories/pictures/moments that have so adeptly summed up the New Orleans Pelicans season thus far, and that was certainly one of them.

There was good news, though. Anthony Davis was listed day-to-day but managed to get out onto the court. This was a welcome sight for fans.

The Game

In my preview, I pointed out the very obvious point that Goran Dragic’s presence would drastically alter the shape of the game tonight. If that’s what Dragic plays like on a bum ankle, I’ll have what he’s having. He got off to a sizzling start against Brian Roberts, who was simply unable to do much of anything defending him all night.

The Pelicans were able to match early, as they filled it up from deep and took advantage of a Phoenix defense that doesn’t have a true rim protector.

Monty was in rare form tonight and was employing all sorts of gimmicky lineups, and I loved it. Not all of them were successful, but there is simply no way to be certain of any lineup’s effectiveness until it takes the court.. so sometimes, you just need to throw things out there and see if they work. Small ball was something I expected tonight, but I didn’t expect Monty to try a lineup with Rivers/Morrow/Reke/Aminu/Babbitt. Kudos to Monty.

The game was lost in the 4th quarter, as Dragic learned to shed Rivers and absolutely dominated Roberts in his brief stint attacking BRob. The Suns were getting stops and the Pelicans looked completely out of sync. Al Farouq Aminu’s minimal court time at the end of the 3rd certainly didn’t help matters, registering a -8 in just under 3 minutes of play.

In the end, the game was a series of lead swings and it was competitive for the full 48 minutes. Yeah, we lost, but honestly, I came away from the game with a fairly positive outlook.  Monty was trying new things, Anthony Davis was dominant, Rivers did a great job defending Dragic, Gordon had an extremely efficient night, and Tyreke got to the rim at will when anyone not named PJ Tucker was defending him. I feel no shame in losing to the Suns on the road. None. Especially when Dragic banks in a 3 and Ish Smith does his best Aminu imitation and throws a rainbow over Davis’s long arms. The Suns hit some tough shots in crucial moments. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.

Player Notes

  • Anthony Davis was absolutely spectacular awesome amazing and wonderful. His jumper just looks so smooth right now and there was not much anyone could do to stop him tonight, besides his teammates, who managed to ignore him for most of the 2nd half. He’s going to be skinny until you start feeding him, fellas. Get him the damn ball.
  • If Tony Allen had done exactly what Austin Rivers did tonight and the Pelicans had won, everyone would say how he was a guy who “did all the little things” despite his offensive struggles. And that’s what it was tonight for Rivers, who was all over Dragic. There were a few moments in the 2nd half where Rivers didn’t get help and he let Dragic get to the rim, but largely, Rivers was suffocating Dragic. The offense was, as mentioned before, really bad. Rivers couldn’t buy a roll on the rim, had an awful 3 pointer, and also was a little ball-dominant at times. But again, because of his reputation, I bet Rivers would get heat tonight for his poor offensive performance. Just stop thinking of him as a scorer, because right now, he is a defender.
  • Eric Gordon had an extremely efficient night with 21 points on just 10 shots. His 3 point shot was money, his handle was tighter, and perhaps more importantly, the small ball lineups allowed him more space to get to the rim. The defense left something to be desired when he got switched onto Dragic a couple of times.
  • Tyreke Evans also benefited from the additional space in the lane and was much closer to the Tyreke we expected coming into the season. He also hit a 3! Tyreke was blanketed by PJ Tucker for some of the night, but when he got one of the Morris brothers on him (I still cannot tell the difference), he was going to the rim and he was going to score.
  • Luke Babbitt didn’t get the run I expected him to receive and had a quiet night overall. I’m not sure if he’s not confident in his 3 ball, but lately, he’s been pump faking defenders and trying to drive to the basket. Shoot it, Babbitt: that’s what you’re paid to do. If a defender comes flying out at you, fine, but the dribble drive is not your game.
  • Anthony Morrow is as close to a knockdown shooter as you can get. Don’t really count the last second heave from 27-28 feet to beat the shot clock. Decent but unspectacular night for Morrow.
  • Darius Miller got a few minutes and was correctly not put back in. I like Miller as much as the next guy, but isolating 1 v 1 is certainly not his game. He’s got decent handles and is a very good passer, but Miller’s game should stem from his outside shot. He’s a guy who can borrow from the penetration of others when the defense is swinging, but he’s not someone you should throw the ball and say “make me a shot.” Not his game.
  • Alexis Ajinca had only 14 minutes tonight. Quite frankly, I just don’t remember many things that he did, other than him coming over to block a couple shots and a putback dunk.
  • Brian Roberts just had no shot at defending Dragic and wound up fouling out in just 21 minutes. Roberts isn’t big enough to fight through screens.  Size matters more than people let on, and if you take forever to get back to your man, it exerts a lot more pressure on your teammates to cover for you. As an NBA guard, you need to be able to fight through screens. When Roberts can’t, he’ll get switched onto someone else, and that person is always a mismatch because he’s so small. It was not a good night for BRob, and the ESPN announcers even mentioned his subpar defense on Dragic. But make no mistake, Dragic is a very tough assignment.
  • Jeff Withey got a few minutes and I remember a couple of good plays, including a sequence where he deflected a pass and got a jumper on the other end. If he can develop that jumper and put on some weight, he will be a nice backup big for the future.

The Pelicans face the Clippers tomorrow night (or tonight, really) in another battle out West. Tune in!




19 responses to “Suns Execute Down Stretch, Outlast Pelicans”

  1. Not a disappointing game overall. Pelicans players have to know to give Davis the ball, something they still haven’t figured out. For a nice stretch the ball never touched his hands. That was the stretch that the Suns came back and took the lead. And he was unstoppable tonight!!! Gotta get it to your superstar. It was a pretty bad night for Aminu though. He worse on defense than he was on offense and that’s saying something. One of the Morris twins killed him every time they got the ball. This was one of the games I wish we had Jrue to get the ball to AD. He could have easily put up 40+

  2. As I’ve heard from any competent Pels follower tonight, it wasn’t a bad game overall. Lots of good things to take away from it, like Monty’s different experimenting (and my personal favorite…the fact that Stiemsma didn’t play a single second). 
    Sucks that Jrue is out for the year…joining two of my other favorites in Smith and Anderson. But that seems to be our luck lately. Hopefully they’ll all be 100% by the start of next season and we can finally try to live up to the potential the team has. 
    (commenting works btw, Michael)

  3. Withey was Plus-8 in less than 7 minutes.  Pulled for Aminu because of a perimeter foul, and never went back in.   Withey was defending well, and should have been given some more minutes.  He plays well with Davis.   So does Davis.

    Other than that, I liked the funky lineups.  Not too far off my plan from earlier.  Kudos to Rivers on his D, and to Monty for recognizing it eventually.

    I thought the Suns got a lot of benefit from the refs tonight.  The “charge” on Evans was totally bogus (made the Suns announcers choke) and the 3-pointer that Gordon got waved off was a joke.   Anyone else gets the 4-point opportunity there.  Ajinca being taken down should have been a loose ball foul, and there were many others that weren’t called leading to Suns 2nd-chance points.  Dragic used a lot of push-offs and hooks to get around guys as well.

    Anyway, the Suns needed the win and we might have some use for another loss, so it’s hard to get too upset now.  I just wish we could get some of that home cooking once in a while…..

  4. Experiment is a word I’m liking in regards to this seasons Pelicans. We come into the season trying to fight for that 8th spot and were in that fight until injuries plagued (and are still) us. Even with a tank attempt (which I feel is unnecessary and probably more detrimental to our  future) our chances of getting that top 5 pick are highly unlikely and we aren’t signing any bug names this summer due to cap issues. All of this sounds pretty awful for us and some of our game performances are not always known for being confidence boosts.

    But tonight made me feel a bit better. Players like Smith, Ryno, and Jrue have roles that are pretty well established for this team. I would prefer them to be playing right now of course but seeing as their not, I like to see our younger guys who don’t have as developed of a role figure out how they contribute to this team the best they can. And that won’t happen by overplaying Aminu or Steimsma when we have 2 players at the same position, who are younger and have more upside then the former two, who don’t see much time (or with Brian Roberts getting the minutes he’s getting). I like the experimenting, I like seeing our young guys playing in lineups that may not have been used much this season, I like seeing our first or second year players not named Brian Roberts getting more playing time then they’ve been getting.I want to see if the young group we have can develop to be a solid cast of support bench players that don’t make me cringe when they check in 6 minutes into the first quarter; I think it’s safe to say the Aminu and Steimsma can’t provide us with that on a consistent basis if at all.

    Injuries and questionable coaching decisions have left a cloud hanging over the teams head but I love seeing our younger guys playing more and contributing (doing “all the little things”). I’m hoping we see more of this experimentation to see if it can find us the right setting to utilize and develop the pieces we have that could be there in our future.

  5. Also, I think Davis was instructed (or decided on his own) to avoid blocks and dunks to protect his shoulder.    Withey is a better rim protector than Ajinca, and especially Stiemsma, which is why we went on a run when he was in there.

  6. Loved your line about Davis being “amazing and wonderful” I haven’t heard it put that way about a player in 22 years. Your are now my IDOL of the week…..nice game write up however…you were amazing and…oh never mind…grins from V

  7. 2:59 left in the 3rd..Pelicans are up 77-67 because of their 15-1 run… the Suns gut punch New Orleans by responding with a 14-4 run and eventually tie it at 81 going into the 4th….seems the Pelicans exhaust themselves with runs that run out of fuel to compliment the offense with defensive work to stiff arm teams……on another note i have very bad vibes about the Anderson injury…could it be more serious than we know?…Whispers….surgery?

  8. They might not be no draft pick for the Pels this year but changes on the roster and a clean house would be great.I know they’re so homers out there want Monty to stay but get real he’s not a fit for this team.

  9. Nice write up. I’m not so sure comparing Austin Rivers to Tony Allen is particularly honest, but it was late and c’est la vie.
    Interesting to see Phoenix play. They know who they are. They have a system that fits their talent and a set of ideas that they follow regardless of outcome. 
    Still searching in New Orleans.

  10. There was absolutely no compelling reason on God’s green Earth for Anthony Davis to play through pain and put himself on the court 2/3 of the way through a bad season in a meaningless game. But he did it. And that says so much about him and also provides inspiration to a team and franchise he’s quickly become a leader of. AD23 came back early from his broken hand, he barely missed any time after dislocating his finger (playing several games with two fingers taped together), and now this. The true greats in the history of this game have more times than not found a way to get themselves on the court. They always believe they can help their team, and they WANT to be out there. Thank you, Mr. Davis, for what you’re doing for this team. Pelicans fans are learning that the sky’s the limit for you, and we can’t wait for you to take us along for the ride.

  11. Well since we’re in the experimental phase, let’s start Rivers now. Yes I know Roberts is trying and Dragic is good, but his effort sucked last night. I’ll take Monty mixing it up, what’s their to lose?

  12. When Bill Simmons said the Pels should have kept Noel was the one of the dummest things i’ve ever heard because Noel is a injury bust and Pels was not going to have a modern day Sam Bowie on this team.

  13. thouse  oh, didn’t mean to put them anywhere near same level. My point is that perception of who Rivers is drives some of the negativity. So instead of analyzing him as a scorer, analyze him as a defender. Allen just came to mind when I thought “defender, but bad offensive player.”

  14. GerryV Thank you for the kind words, V. You are the bestest. I was a little delirious when I was writing the recap, but felt one or two adjectives wouldn’t do Davis justice.

  15. GerryV  I believe that the Suns run came whenever Aminu came out for Withey. And Withey was playing good, he just got a bad foul. Turned out to be bad timing.

  16. Pelsdachamps  I hate that people keep talking about how the Pelicans messed up trading Noel. 1st off HE HAS DONE NOTHING IN THE NBA!  I’ve always seen Noel as a less talented AD. And I’ll trade 2 pics that have no certainty, for a young proven all-star any day.

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