Glory Days: Pelicans Crush the Sixers 135-98

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Published: May 17, 2014
Jrue Uniform

Glory Days is a running series that will recap the handful of magical games that the Pelicans core was healthy during the 2013-14 season. This is Game #1. 

Man, this game was beautiful. As you will see, it had it all, as the Pelicans played the way we all envisioned that it would when Dell Demps put this roster together. 14 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds for Jrue Holiday in just 29 minutes. 9 blocks for AD in only 28 minutes. Ryan Anderson going 6-10 from behind the arc. Eric Gordon 19 points on just 12 shots. And Tyreke Evans coming off the bench to give you 15 points on just 10 shots (would have been 18 if he knocked down his freebies). Full Box Score Here.

There were some occasional hiccups defensively, as you will see below, but you also see how dominant this team could have been if it remained healthy, as they were clicking on the offensive end, and this was only their first game together. Yes, Philly was a bad team (though not as bad as they would become later in the year), but that is what good teams do – they demolish bad teams.

I took the advice from readers on what they wanted to know specifically about and created some categories and tried to lace each with some video highlights. On some of the highlights, you will have to sit through a commercial, but believe me, they are all worth it. It has been so long since we saw the real Pelicans team that I know most of you have forgotten what it looks like. Trust me, you will be brimming with optimism again after you are reminded what this core was like when it was healthy. Enjoy!

Tyreke off the Bench

When Evans was on the floor with other bench members in the first half, he did not run the offense nearly enough. Often times, Brian Roberts pounded the ball while Tyreke just stood behind the three-point line doing nothing. But when the Pelicans had a chance to run, they got the ball into Tyreke’s hands and he either got open shots for himself or others. His stats would have been far more impressive if he would have hit his free throws.

Pick and roll with either Tyreke or Brian Roberts seemed to be the first option on many of the plays with the five man bench unit, but the secondary option was a bit of a surprise – Ryan Anderson in the post. And he was quite good getting his own shot. See here.

Again, Tyreke got some time in the 4th quarter with end of bench reserves, as the Pelicans held a huge lead. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), Roberts dominated the ball in that stretch as Tyreke just kind of stood around while the undrafted, minimum salary guy ran the offense instead of the explosive, 44 million dollar man. Makes sense.

Defense

The Pelicans hedged hard on nearly every pick and roll possession the Sixers had, though they run P&R’s far less than most teams. Where the Pelicans really had issue was when guys cut to the rim and there was a failure to communicate when two guys were supposed to switch. (See here for an example)

There were a few exceptions, however. When non shooting threats had the ball against the reserves, the Pelicans often went under or even switched. It seems like the philosophy was to be aggressive with the starters and look to force turnovers (hard hedge) and then play more conservatively with the second unit (under or switch)

This will surprise people – the majority of defensive mistakes on the interior belonged to Anthony Davis, not Ryan Anderson. See here. Or how about this one right here. What is AD doing? He had nine blocks in this game, but also led the team in defensive mistakes.

One thing that was easily noticeable was that Pelicans guards defended all the way out to 35-40 feet. Much more aggressive than what we saw later in the season.

Tyreke and Jrue Together

They played together (w/o Gordon) for a small stretch in the second quarter. The first thing I noticed was how big a nightmare they were defensively. They really pressured the opposing guards and got a handful of deflections in a short period of time that led to steals in some cases and transition opportunities. On the offensive end, Holiday was the main ballhandler in the half court with Tyreke either going to the post or the corner. But again, Tyreke was the guy they got the ball to in transition and he just made things happen. Like this WOW! moment here

The one thing I did tend to notice is that when Tyreke had the ball, Jrue was moving around more off the ball. When Jrue had the ball, Tyreke just kind of stood in a spot. He needs to move more so his guy can’t just take his eyes off him and correctly assume where he is at.

They didn’t play much together in this game, mostly because it was a blowout in the late 3rd and 4th, when they would have likely played together. But the formula seemed to be to let Jrue run a lot of the halfcourt sets while Tyreke gets the ball in transition. The ball never stayed in one guys’ hands too much, though. It was the complete opposite of what we saw later in the year, as the ball was always moving via passes or dribble handoffs.

The Core Four/Finishing Five

The Finishing Five played from the 5:48 mark in the first quarter to the 2:33 mark. In their first minute on the court together, we got this beautiful sequence. The Pelicans outscored the Sixers 12-2 in that stretch. Evans and Anderson scored all 12 points, going 5-5 from the field, and four of those makes were assisted on.

Ryan Anderson was used to set off ball screens for the guards, and then he would pop off of those to the three-point line, where he was usually open. See here. 

The Finishing Five played together for the last two minutes of the first half, and the first offensive possession was a layup by Eric Gordon, then Tyreke gets all the way to the basket and gets fouled, followed by a wide open 15-foot jumper. Defensively, they had some issues with communication, like on this play here, but were generally good.

This lineup featured Smith instead of AD, but the other four members of the FF were out there, and check out this simple, yet beautiful concept that resulted in a wide open Anderson three. 

The Starters

Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon started in the backcourt, with Aminu, Davis, and Smith up front. Davis defended Thaddeus Young while Smith covered Spencer Hawes. As you will see quite often in this piece, the Pels ran early and ran often. Holiday handled the ball about 60% of the time with Gordon shouldering the other 40%, and when one handled, the other was spotted up on a wing. Numerous three-point opportunities came from one of them breaking down the defense and kicking it to the other.

The second half saw this unit just utterly dominate, as they came out of the gate and outscored the Sixers 20-9 and basically put the game away. They shot 9-11, as Holiday was fantastic, both getting his own shots and finding others in that stretch, and Aminu was surprisingly adequate as a 5th option who benefitted from the Sixers basically ignoring him.

Rotation

Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans came in for Jason Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu with 5:48 left in the first quarter to play with the other 3 starters and defended Hawes while AD stayed on Young.

At the 2:33 mark, Brian Roberts came in for Holiday and Morrow came in for Gordon. And after beautiful basketball the previous three minutes, Brian Roberts did this on his very first possession.

Davis went to the bench with 2:01 left in the first and Roberts-Morrow-Evans-Anderson-Smith finished up the quarter.

The second quarter started with the same lineup that finished the first quarter.

At the 9:59 mark of the 2nd quarter, Davis came in for Ryan Anderson. Davis got a 4 minute break (probably about 10-12 minutes in real time). Anderson had played about 8 minutes before coming out for his 1st break.

With 8:53 left, Holiday came in for Roberts. Lineup: Holiday-Evans-Morrow-AD-Smith

Midway through the second, Gordon comes in for Morrow and Ryno comes in for Smith. Finishing Five Alert! Sadly, just 30 seconds later, Aminu would come in for Evans. But with 2:02 left, Evans would come back in and the Finishing Five would close the half.

Original starters begin the 3rd quarter together. Ryan Anderson came in with 6:18 left in the third (For Smith). The next subs didn’t come until 3:15 left in the third when Tyreke came in for Aminu and Smith came in for AD. A minute later, Roberts came in for Gordon.

After that, the lineups got all out of whack because the Pelicans led by 36 and Monty got guys playing time that wouldn’t have normally played at all or gotten that many minutes in a regular game.

For example, Lou Amundson and Brian Roberts played the entire 4th quarter, Rivers got 7 minutes and Childress and Withey each got 5 after not playing at all in the 1st half.

Overall, it looked like the rotation was: Starters, then bring Ryno in, followed closely by Tyreke. Move one of the guards out for Morrow, then the other for Roberts. Go with the 5 bench guys for the beginning of the 2nd. Bring AD back in quickly. Back to starters, then bring in Ryno and Tyreke again for the final stretch of the half. Rinse and repeat.

Playing With Pace

The first offensive possession actually started with Jason Smith taking the ball out from under the rim after a Sixers made bucket. Three seconds later, Anthony Davis had scored a bucket and was heading to the free throw line. (You can watch it here). Regardless of the situation, this team played with pace and got plenty of easy buckets and open three-point attempts as they ran up and down the floor.

This team just ran and ran and ran. And the result was beautiful plays like this one here.  Or this one. Or wide open three-point looks like this.

The Pelicans had 32 transition opportunities in this game. That is more than the number of isolations, pick and rolls, and post-ups they had COMBINED according to Synergy. And in those 32 transition opportunities, they scored 43 points. And its not like it was an up and down game where both teams had their opportunities. Philly only had 18 and scored just 19 points on them.

Monty

Coach gets his own section because he has gotten more heat than anybody this season, and I will admit that I have joined in this from time to time. However, in this game I can’t really put forth any complaints other than him having Roberts handle the ball so much when he always had a superior player like Evans or Holiday on the floor with him. Those guys should have been handling with Roberts playing off the ball, but obviously it didn’t cost the Pelicans in this game.

The Sixers didn’t go on too many runs, so we didn’t get to see how Monty would adjust to mismatches or when he would use timeouts to stop momentum. The rotation was fine when the game was still in question, and some of the offensive sets were downright beautiful. He also encouraged the guys to run and had some good defensive concepts that only broke when young guys made mistakes that young guys are bound to make.

We will see more going forward, but my hypothesis for right now remains that if we would have gotten a healthy season from these guys, we likely would not have seen the venom directed towards Monty that we saw later in the year. I mean, look at one of the frequent complaints – Monty doesn’t encourage this team to take enough threes. The Pelicans were 13-28 in this game. That’s Spurs-esque.

 

Odds and Ends

Greg Stiemsma was inactive for this game due to injury. That, more than anything, might have been the reason for the blowout. I kid, I kid. But not really.

Jrue Holiday is a fantastic off the dribble shooter. Like, Lillard fantastic. If the Sixers gave him even an inch of space, he would bury the J and the ball never even came close to touching the rim. All net every time. See here.

Speaking of Holiday, his vision leads me to believe that the Crescent City Connection Part Two is coming back full time next year. Check out this P&R with AD.

People seem more than willing to let Jason Smith walk this summer, but again, I think they forget how impactful he was in his role when everybody was healthy. Yes, he took far too many jumpers early when Ryno was out, but this game shows who he can be as a supporting piece. He went 4-4 and grabbed 7 rebounds (3 offensive) in 21 minutes. He hedged hard quite effectively and made all the proper rotations on defense and also got three blocks, two of which led to fast breaks.

Anthony Morrow was a hesitant player in this game, nothing close to what we saw at the end of the season. And Austin Rivers or Jeff Withey wouldn’t have played if not for the blowout. The injuries stunk, but for guys like this, it was a bit of a blessing in disguise.

Brian Roberts scored a bunch of garbage points in the 4th, but this game reminded me why we were all frustrated with him early in the season. Surrounded by all that talent, he still often acted like he was the #1 option on the court. Ball movement was fantastic when he was off, and average at best when he was on the court.

Who else had forgotten that Josh Childress was on this team? (raises hand)

What’s Next?

Glory Days will be back soon as the Pelicans get their second straight win as they defeat the Jazz 105-98 thanks to terrific games from Anderson and Davis, who went a combined 15-21 and scored 41 points.

 

10 comments
Caffeinedisaster
Caffeinedisaster

I already love this series.  Your analysis of specific plays with video links is wonderful.

I must ask though, how are you able to watch replays of entire games?

Is this a feature provided through league pass?


Thanks!

504ever
504ever

Great piece!  My favorite quotes are below, in order starting with my most favorite, and my comments are below each quote.


-  "[M]y hypothesis for right now remains that if we would have gotten a healthy season from these guys, we likely would not have seen the venom directed towards Monty that we saw later in the year."  

AGREE!


-  "Aminu was surprisingly adequate as a 5th option who benefitted from the Sixers basically ignoring him."  

I may be a contrarian but, assuming we get a quality starting SF, who can back him up for say $2.5M a year better than Aminu?  Aminu scored more points, on 4-5 shooting, and grabbed nearly as many rebounds Smith in fewer minutes (18).  Where is the Aminu love, especially considering how durable Aminu is?


-  "People seem more than willing to let Jason Smith walk this summer, but again, I think they forget how impactful he was in his role when everybody was healthy. [T]his game shows who he can be as a supporting piece. He went 4-4 and grabbed 7 rebounds (3 offensive) in 21 minutes."  

My primary problem is Smith's health the last two years.  But let me pose this question: Who would you rather have on the team, Blatche at around $3M/year or Smith at around $2M/year?  I say Blatche, and you can't have both because because I believe Ajinca and Withey are returning.

thouse
thouse

Great write up.


Love that you are pointing out some of Davis's defensive lapses. He is a terror on that end, but he still makes bad mistakes (like just about every 2nd year player does). He will get better, but he is by no means a DPOY candidate at this very early point in his career.


Interesting note on the hard hedge. I didn't remember the bench bigs sagging, but I do remember seeing starters go away from this some during the 2nd Philadelphia game. The hard hedge seems like a huge problem given the foot speed of the frontline and the rotations that this team hasn't gotten right since Monty's first year.


The Monty question for me comes down to utter lack of imagination or philosophy. I get injuries limited his options, but if you want to push the pace, you can still push it with bench guys (or let Evans control the ball instead of Roberts). If you want ball movement, you can stress it with the bench guys. If you want to avoid putting your team in the hole, you can not play Stiemsma 20+MPG over and over and over again. I didn't see much of a foundation being built when he had half a season to really stress what he believes with mostly young, moldable players and little pressure to actually win games with a hampered roster.


I think you're right that he doesn't get anything close to the heat he's seen with a healthy roster, but that doesn't mean there aren't some flaws that need to be addressed.

kibner
kibner

I think people forget or fail to realize that Jason Smith was the starting center because he was our most dependable (not necessarily best) defensive big. He is a decent shot blocker, makes the right rotations, and has the physical ability to show and recover.

If he had a bit more strength to him and rebounded better, I don't think we would be clamoring so much for better center.

eMariii123
eMariii123

Imagine this same exact team, but with PJ Tucker instead of Aminu.

Man, next year we're gunna take the league by storm.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara moderator

@Caffeinedisaster  I watch on Synergy, but some have said that they have been able to go to 'Achieved Games' on League Pass and watch. 

Next game (vs. Jazz) should be up tomorrow if you wanna watch along!

Thanks

Caffeinedisaster
Caffeinedisaster

@504ever  Agree, especially with the thoughts on Aminu.

I've been hard on him as well, but we shouldn't forget that we are destitute at his position and because of that he's been asked to do far more than he would had we had someone solid at 3 & D at the correct size to play SF.


Solid rebounding small-ball PF backup though and we still own bird rights.  (Holy crap, that's a lot of qualifiers.  He truly is a niche roleplayer.) 

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara moderator

@thouse  I think the general philosophy amongst almost every coach I know of is: If you have more talent, you tend to want to play at a higher pace. If the other team is more talented than you, then you tend to want to keep possessions at a minimum. Of course, sometimes specific personnel dictates otherwise, but it is a pretty general rule. 

It seems like Monty followed this rule and got far more conservative as his talent pool dwindled. As for your concern of his lack of imagination - he did mention in the press conference that he only used about 30% of his playbook this year. With different guys in the lineup every other night, he simply could not get to everything he wanted to. But I will remind you of the game winning play in that triple OT game against the Bulls. Monty said he has had that play in his back pocket for a few years, finally had a player who he could use it with (Holiday).

I am not trying to be a Monty defender, and I do know there are still flaws. But I think the Monty bashing went a little too far, and I am trying to judge what he can do with the healthy team, because it really doesn't matter to me if he could lead a devastated team to 37 wins as opposed to 34. 

I also think it is on Dell now to realize some of Monty's flaws and not sign players that Monty might be tempted to use, though I will say that Stiemsma barely got a sniff even when he returned from injury and our core guys were healthy. 

As always, thanks for the feedback and I hope you enjoy this series. 

thouse
thouse

@Michael McNamara I agree that the bashing went too far. He does some very good things (his guys play hard, he runs some nice sets and some nice ATOs). I don't really have a huge problem with him, just think he's too rigid/"old school" for my personal tastes.

The wins or lack thereof this season aren't an issue for me. If that's part of the Monty equation, I think people are missing the plot. I'm just looking for a basketball identity that this team will have. If having better talent is your identity, I think that is a coaching shortcoming. I struggle to think of what we could say to define the way his teams actually play besides they try hard.

The pace theory is an interesting one in terms of strategy. I've read some thought that upping the pace can help teams at a talent deficit. No proof either way that I've seen, but an interesting conversation.