Glory Days: Finishing Five Surges Past Cavs, as Pelicans Win 104-100
Glory Days is a series that takes a look back at the 13 magical games where the Pelicans key players were all healthy and playing together. This is Game #3 in the series. For a look at all the Glory Days posts in this series, click here.
This makes three straight wins for the Pelicans since they returned to full health. Well, full health minus Stiemsma. So basically, their best possible team. Unlike the other two games, though, the Pelicans trailed for most of this game as they constantly got down only to be saved by their Finishing Five. The starting unit was terrible, and the second unit struggled too, but the Finishing Five was incredible. They were on the floor for 15 minutes in this game and they outscored the Cavs 42-18.
The BOX SCORE will tell you the same thing, as every member of the Finishing Five was +13 or better and Jason Smith was -11 and Aminu was -12 in just 16 minutes of play. As you will see from the recap, the starting five just seemed out of place far too often offensively and they just missed easy opportunities. Couple that with the Cavs getting some breaks in the first half and Jarrett Jack getting red-hot in the second half, and it was an uphill battle most of the way for the Pelicans.
But the Finishing Five was everything it was advertised to be as they played with incredible pace and were able to force the Cavs into turnovers on the other end. Individually, I would probably call Jrue Holiday the MVP as he forced Kyrie Irving into some terrible shots and turnovers on one end (9-22 plus 4 TO’s) while running the show and being efficient on the other end (15 points on 10 shots with 11 assists) on the other. Tyreke Evans probably gets the second star for his ability to push the pace. He was just 7-16, but four of his misses resulted in easy putbacks by his teammates because he drew so much attention.
Overall, it was a type of game that good teams need to win. You aren’t going to be on every night and on those nights, you still need to figure out a way to win games. The Pelicans did it in this one with two huge surges by their best lineup and by being aggressive on the offensive boards. At this point of the season, they were still in the infant stages when it came to running offensive sets crisply and communicating on defense, but every once in a while you saw moments of sheer brilliance.
Whenever Davis had a less than mobile big on him like Bynum, the Pelicans tried to get him moving, which often resulted in open jumpers like this. The Pelicans got him the ball early and often, with him taking four good shots in the first 4 minutes. Unfortunately, he only made one of them and that was reason for the slow start. In a trend I noticed throughout the season, he was missing because he was releasing it on his way down. Check out this play for an example.
Jason Smith probably shouldn’t have taken this shot, but something tells me that someone else is out of place. What are his options other than shoot? And here is another play where somebody is obviously out of place. Just a clear sign that these guys hadn’t jelled yet. But here is your daily reminder that Jason Smith is awesome. Or look at this baller move!
This shot didn’t go in, but I think this is exactly what Dell imagined when he put three ball handling guards together on the same roster. Lots of movement and it results in an open three-point attempt.
As you will see in other sections of this piece, it really was the Finishing Five that dragged this team to victory. Cleveland smartly ignored Aminu whenever he was on the floor and allowed Jason Smith to have mid-range jumpers, making it difficult for Holiday, Gordon, or Davis to have anything easy. On top of that, Gordon was just sloppy with the ball in pick and roll situations and in transition. It was the second chance points that saved New Orleans in this one, as their 19 offensive rebounds resulted in 25 second chance points. With the way every unit played, save for the Finishing Five, this would have been a loss if not for getting those extra opportunities.
Now this, on the other hand, is bad. Just a weakside defender (Morrow) getting completely lost. The communication issues on the defensive end were noticeable, which really hurts when you have little to no defensive talent on that unit. Just two plays later, Morrow gets lost again. And here we have Anthony Morrow help defender.
This is maybe the worst defensive sequence of the game. I don’t even know who is more to blame, but again, we see an utter lack of communication.
I love that the Pelicans want to protect the paint, but this is where Monty’s strategy goes too far.
Pelicans offense looked terrible as they trailed 16-7 with 4 minutes to go in the first. Finishing Five goes in and the first two shots are made layups. Here and Here. Then Ryno hits a jumper. Oh, and then what do we have on the next possession? Another layup. Followed by a dunk and another layup. And all of a sudden it is 19-18 Pelicans just two minutes later. All in all, we got a 14-4 run to end the quarter from the Finishing Five.
Finishing Five doesn’t play in the 2nd because of AD’s foul trouble, but we get a couple minutes in the third and we get this beautiful Ryan Anderson play that gets the Pelicans their first lead since early in the 2nd quarter.
And here is the shot that essentially wins the game. We will see this same shot in a few days go in and out against the Warriors. But on tonight, it is nothing but net.
Starting Five was Holiday – Gordon – Aminu – Davis – Smith
At 4:41, Evans comes in for Aminu and Ryno comes in for Smith. FINISHING FIVE ALERT! (Pels trail 16-7 when they are subbed in, lead 21-20 when quarter is over.
Pelicans start Rivers – Evans – Morrow – Anderson – Amundson in 2nd quarter
Davis comes in for Amundson at 8:54 (third time in a row he came in at official’s TO in 2nd quarter)
At 6:08, Holiday comes in for Rivers and Gordon comes in for Morrow. The finishing five is back on for one possession, before AD picks up his 2nd foul and goes to the bench for Smith.
At 4:33, Aminu comes in for Evans. Lineup: Holiday – Gordon – Aminu – Ryno – Smith
At 1:59, Evans comes back in for Aminu
With 0:13 left, Monty brough AD and Morrow back in for Evans and Smith, which resulted in this bucket.
Second half saw the usual starters. At 6:29, Monty subs in Evans for Aminu, then at 3:38 Anderson comes in for Smith and we have another FINISHING FIVE ALERT! Over those last 6 minutes, the Pels cut the lead from 10 down to 1.
Rivers – Evans – Morrow – Ryno – AD start the 4th, with Evans essentially running the point
Davis picks up his 4th foul and at the 10:18 mark, Smith comes in for AD
With 8:10 remaining, Holiday comes in for Rivers
With 5:55 remaining and the Pelicans trailing 88-81, Monty puts the Finishing Five in and they close out the game on a 23-12 run to seal the victory.
The Cavs went on a few small runs, and both of those runs were quickly ended with a timeout and a change in personnel by Monty.
When Jason Smith or Ryan Anderson was on Bynum, Monty usually let them play him straight up, but when AD got matched up on him, the Pelicans would send a double team as soon as Bynum put the ball on the ground. Bynum got to the line a couple times early, but was pretty much a non factor in this game.
The most questionable thing we saw Monty do in this game is be so conservative with AD, who was in minor foul trouble. He sat him at the end of the first half with two fouls and then again when he picked up his 4th foul early in the final quarter. As a result, he only got 34 minutes and 38 seconds. Usually, he finishes out the half at the very least, which would have brought him up to between 38 and 39 minutes. Davis was a +17, while Smith (the guy who subbed in for him in both cases) was a -11. And as you might have guessed, AD finished the game with just four fouls. In all likelihood, that extra four minutes of Davis and not Smith is a +4 or 5 for the Pelicans. Fortunately, the Finishing Five was so dominant that they were able to overcome the deficit, but it probably shouldn’t have gotten that far. Foul trouble scares Monty far more that it should. That is my one, and only one, glaring critique of Monty from this game.
Odds and Ends
In a close game, every member of the Finishing Five got 31 or more minutes, with Jrue getting the most at 38. AD would have likely matched him if not for the foul trouble, so Smith had to play more than Monty would like to give him in an ideal world (26 mins)
Pelicans dominated the offensive glass (19 off. rebs), but Ryan Anderson didn’t have any. But Ryan taking his big man out to the perimeter opened up the lane for everyone else to crash
The Pelicans ran a ton in this game – not as much as against Philly, but more than against Utah, but they were terrible in transition until that final stretch. They missed eight – EIGHT! – layups in transition. Good news is they tripled Cleveland in transition opportunities – 24 to 8. Just missed opportunities like here and here.
Anthony Davis posted up four times in this game – 0-3 with a turnover. Not good. He just rushes his moves and he can’t seem to put the ball on the floor for more than one bounce. These are things the team and AD have already said he will work on, and if he does, he becomes nearly unguardable.
Jarrett Jack was straight balling in this game, just hitting tough shot after tough shot. Like this one here. Then he hits another tough one and a long three. Not bad defense; just a case of a guy playing well against us. Jack got hot in the 4th and that inflated the Cleveland lead until the Finishing Five came back and put it away.
In the three games so far, we have seen some steady trends when it comes to the rotations, as Monty basically goes with three bigs and uses the 4th big (at this point Amundson) to start the 2nd quarter before quickly bringing AD back in. The one change we have seen is a shift from Roberts to Rivers as a backup point guard, in large part due to Roberts’ defensive issues. But the one person clearly holding up everything from clicking on all cylinders is Aminu. He just sticks out like a sore thumb with all the offensive talent around him and he doesn’t do enough defensively to make up for it. If and when he is gone next year and a competent SF replaces him, this can be one of the most explosive offenses in the NBA.