Suns Execute Down Stretch, Outlast Pelicans

Published: March 1, 2014

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!





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