Familiar Story: Pelicans Fade Late, Lose to Raptors

Published: March 19, 2014

Stop me if you heard this one before: Pelicans control the game and hold a lead going into the final five minutes before going ice cold on offense and making mental mistakes on defense down the stretch to lose the game. Yeah, I thought you might be familiar with that story. Well, it happened again tonight, as the Raptors surged ahead of New Orleans late and won 107-100.

Yes, they missed a bunch of shots late, but what was really frustrating was their effort on the defensive boards. The Pelicans played three guys who are all a legit 7-foot or taller while Toronto’s biggest guy was 6’9″. And not only did Toronto win the battle of the boards, they DOMINATED the glass. They were just relentless in their pursuit of the ball while most of the Pelicans players gave minimal effort when the ball was in the air.

The defining play of the game came with 1:24 remaining and the Raptors up two. Greivis Vasquez rose up for a contested three-pointer that fell short. All five Pelicans just stood and watched as the ball hit the floor and Vasquez raced towards it to get the rebound. He then drives to the basket and gets the bucket and the foul. Pretty much the ball game right there.

Yes, the Pelicans were without Anthony Davis but it is not like Toronto had a plethora of good offensive rebounders. They just had guys who were willing to fight and claw for every ball, and that is why they pulled down 22 offensive rebounds tonight. It was a game that was right there for the taking – all the Pelicans had to do was reach out and grab it. But instead, they stood stationary and let the road team take what was rightfully theirs.

Other Notes and Observations

– Tyreke Evans and Al-Farouq Aminu are excused, as I can not lump them in with everyone else tonight. They ran to the boards and got rebounds out of their area. But everyone else will get plenty of blame in the film session tomorrow. Just a lack of effort and basic basketball IQ. I mean, not only was that a huge problem, but the Pelicans fouled a jump shooter FIVE different times tonight (three by Eric Gordon). Yes, they were outmanned tonight, but they lost this game because of mental lapses and lack of effort, not because of lack of talent.

– I will get Monty’s biggest mistake out of the way, because really he deserves little or no blame tonight. He was far too conservative with Gordon’s minutes when he got into a little bit of foul trouble. Yes, Gordon had 2 in the first half and 4 by the end of the third, but so what? This is a guy who averages 2 per game. You really think he is going to foul out? As a result of his conservative decision, Gordon only got 29 minutes and he scored just 3 points in quarters 2-4 after scoring 12 in the first 9 minutes. Oh, and of course, he finished with only 4 fouls.

– Aminu and Evans were both terrific tonight. 37 points on 18 shots and 12 defensive rebounds. Aminu had a mismatch all night as he played the four and was able to get by Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansborough with ease.

– Austin Rivers started off terrific, but had a really bad stretch in the 4th when the Pelicans could have pushed the lead into double digits. He took some bad shots, and more times than not he had Morrow or Miller wide open for three if he would have just picked his head up.

– Brian Roberts defense against Lowry was surprisingly adequate. Lowry hit some really tough jumpers in the first half, but for the most part Roberts kept him out of the paint. But down the stretch Vasquez made shots while Roberts missed a wide open jumper to tie it and that stung a little.

– Withey had some nice plays, but if I am being honest, I am getting less and less excited about him as a prospect as days go by. He just doesn’t have the athleticism to get rebounds in traffic and he lacks the strength to keep guys from pushing him under the rim. He will never be an offensive threat, so his only real chance was to try to become Asik-lite as a rebounder and shot blocker, but he can only do one of those things.

– Stiemsma had a behind the back dish to Withey early in the game. I knew at that very moment that the intention of this game was to troll me.

– Ajinca was probably the best of the three bigs tonight, though that is not saying much. Still, much better than what we had seen of him in the last few games.

– Darius Miller with 12 minutes and zero’s all across his stat line with the exception of 1 steal and 2 fouls. People want to see him play more to evaluate him. I already have. He is gone this summer, no need to see more.

– If Babbitt can’t get off the bench in this game, will we ever see him again? I am starting to believe the following: We gave him a 1 year deal with the second year as a team option in case the worst case scenario came to pass with Ryan Anderson. Recently, the team has gotten news that Anderson will be 100% by the start of next season, so they know they will not pick up the option on Babbitt next summer.

– Get Well soon AD!


  1. NOEngineer

    March 19, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Another case of the “we’re playing a playoff contender” flu.  This was destined to be a loss from the outset, so no use getting all analytical about it.    Great game by Tyreke, nice tease by Aminu, solid play by Ajinca, and good first halves from Gordon, Rivers, and Roberts.    Gordon absolutely sucked in the 4th, which is starting to be my biggest problem (which is saying something) with him.   He’s an automatic transmission (no clutch).
    I would not have thought Withey was -18 on the night.    Apparently being partnered with Stiemsma is not for everyone…..

  2. champsworld504

    March 19, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    The clock on Aminu, Roberts and Steisma are ticking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. 504ever

    March 19, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Like the write up, Michael.  
    My only thing to add is about Ajinca.  He looked good in the “eye” test, had stats in 21 minutes equal to or better than Stiemsma’s and Withey’s combined stats for 42 minutes, had per36 numbers of 17 points 12 rebounds, and was +11 in his 21 minutes.  That gives me hope, especially as you point out, when Withey looks more and more like a back-up C.

  4. Jason Quigley

    March 20, 2014 at 12:02 am

    You really think the future isn’t so bright for Withey? I don’t know… first start, not many minutes played AT ALL this season, not really enough time to develop completely in an NBA system. That said, he’s not going to be a starter..ever. But I he can be a solid backup at center with some more time put in. I’ve seen flashes of really good potential for Withey if he can maybe bulk up a little more. Obviously you know more about basketball than me, though.

  5. PelicanSaints

    March 20, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I think the plan is to bring Withey along slow, just like they did with AD…..he’ll probably start next year….they’ll probably add other Center and a undersized rebound specialist. ..and of course a small forward. ..

  6. bradlaborde

    March 20, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Same old story at the juice bar last night.  Gordon’s hot start (sans that pass into row 7) only to tail off down the stretch and the very predictable collapse after halftime were the main ingredients in this sh*t smoothie.  I should be used to it be now, but I’m not.  Monty’s line up to start the 4th quarter was awful, but this loss was due to the lack of hustle.  It’s on the players.
    No Heat game for me.  Cocoa butter and TAP OUT shirts aren’t my thing. Get well AD.
    Happy March Madness everyone.

  7. ryanschwan

    March 20, 2014 at 8:54 am

    NOEngineer With looked exhausted to me by the fourth.  I just don’t think he’s physically capable yet to deal with NBA atheletes for more than 20 minutes.  In the first quarter, he was leaping for rebounds and trying to get to them.  By the fourth, he was just boxing his guy out, and hoping someone else would snare the rebound.

    Only Aminu was fiercely rebounding at that point.

  8. 504ever

    March 20, 2014 at 10:16 am

    ryanschwan NOEngineer
    Sadly, I think Withey’s conditioning (and possibly toughness) is an issue.  Not so for Ajinca.
    And I expect Aminu to be back as a back-up 4 (and sometimes 3), if he can be signed to back-up’s contract.  And don’t forget they ran a play for him to shoot a 3 late and he hit it, along with some longer 2s.  He is still growing as an offensive player, is incredibly durable, and got out on the break and scored effectively when we ran early this season

  9. Jason Quigley

    March 20, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Haven’t we been saying his best position was a 4 the whole year???

  10. NOEngineer

    March 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    ryanschwan NOEngineer  I would be happy if Smith, Stiemsma, and Ajinca would learn to “just” bx their guy out so someone else can get the rebound.   That is what an undersized center is supposed to do, in my opinion.   If our centers box out the other center, then Davis and Aminu and Evans will soak up those rebounds.   I’d be interested to see what our team rebound percentages do when Withey is on the court with a lineup versus Stiemsma and Aminu with that same lineup.   My gut tells me we get more rebounds and the other team makes a lower percentage of their shots at the rim.

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