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!