Glory Days: Pelicans Get Back on Track, Defeat Kings
Glory Days takes a look back at the thirteen magical games where the Pelicans were actually healthy. For past articles in this series, click here.
Though we have covered numerous games so far in our Glory Days series, it wasn’t until this very point when I started to get excited about how the Pelicans were playing. After all, this isn’t a video game where you can just put any combination of players together and expect them to perform well together. It takes time for a team to jell and in these next few games you could see the beginnings of what the Pelicans could have been if they continued to play together for the next few months.
They never really pulled away in this game against the Kings, due in large part to the fact that they didn’t have two of their five big pieces for a large part of this game. Ryan Anderson got in foul trouble early, and Eric Gordon took a terrible fall that took him out of this game (and the next couple as well). But eventually, the Pelicans backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans took over, as the Pelicans finished on a 25-10 run to beat the Kings 113-100 in Sacramento.[Box Score]
The Pelicans ball movement was superior in this game, as they had an assist to turnover ratio of 28:16 while the Kings went the other way, racking up just 15 assists, compared to 22 turnovers. The Pelicans defense was high risk/high reward in this game, as they racked up 13 steals because they trapped and doubled quite a bit. But when the Kings broke that, they were able to get quite a few easy looks and/or they found their way to the free throw line (42 attempts). This was not a perfect game by any means, but it broke a 4 game losing streak and started the best run of their injury plagued season.
Pelicans on the Offensive End
The Pelicans did not get a ton of fast break points, but they pushed the ball every chance they got – even off of made baskets. (See below)
And in the half court, Jrue and Tyreke were both spectacular. They shared the ball and created for others, including each other. Take a look at this critical possession here where Evans made a great pass to get Ajinca an easy dunk. Or check out Evans here as he gets the hockey assist in a play that is reminiscent of Spurs basketball.
Meanwhile, Holiday was solid all night, racking up 9 assists in the first half, and 10 total. Combined, the two guards accounted for 22 assists and just four turnovers. Holiday carried a lot of the load in the first half, but Evans took over the ball handling duties late, which allowed Holiday to spot up and knock down huge shots when he was needed.
With the game tied at 84, Evans and Holiday scored or assisted (and sometimes both) on 20 of the next 24 points. And the 4 points they did not get credit for, they were responsible in an indirect way, as they were putbacks by big men off their misses.
Things could be so easy if Tyreke just went to the low post more often. I mean, look at how effortless these two points are. And yet, for some reason, he never got the ball on the low post again.
Pelicans on Defense
There were major issues with the transition defense here, as they were so obvious that even the Kings announcers seemed baffled. On four different occasions – yes FOUR! – the Pelicans simply did not pick up the man with the ball. That resulted in 9 easy points for Sacramento.
After having some issues with Demarcus Cousins early, the Pelicans started sending doubles at him once he put the ball on the ground. The first half saw Cousins go for 16 points on 6-8 shooting, but in the second half Cousins was just 1-7, including 0-4 in the final five minutes of the game.
As a whole, the Pelicans defense was terrific in the final five minutes, as they made fantastic rotations and held the Kings to 1-9 shooting. Check out this energy and movement late in the game.
The Kings played bully ball early, but the Pelicans eventually adjusted and became truly locked in down the stretch. The biggest issue, as usual, was the lack of communication. They didn’t call out assignments in transition and occasionally missed rotations, but the encouraging part was that they were locked in and incredibly disruptive when it came to winning time.
Lineups (Click on Picture to Enlarge)
As would be expected, the most often used lineup was the starting lineup featuring Holiday-Gordon-Aminu-Anderson-Davis, but the most effective lineups featured Holiday, Evans, and Roberts as a three guard wrecking crew. Both lineups featured AD, as the only difference was Ryno in one lineup vs. Ajinca in the other. But really, everybody else was just filler as Evans and Holiday were fantastic when they were on the court together. The simply took turns tearing the Kings defense apart.
The only time that the Pelicans were bad with these two on the floor was when Monty got the bright idea to pair them with Al-Farouq Aminu and Lou Amundson. As you could imagine, the spacing was non-existent and when they did drive and kick, the black holes could not finish. To be fair, Monty did not have Babbitt yet and Anderson was in foul trouble. But perhaps he could have shifted Aminu to the 4 and put Morrow at the 3.
The Finishing Five scored 14 points in just 5 minutes on 6-8 shooting, which is great, but they also gave up 11 points. This is a theme throughout this series for the Finishing Five, as they are the highest scoring unit for the Pelicans this season at over 124 points per 100 possessions. But they also gave up the most points per 100 possessions (119). The Core Four, however, gave you similar offense with much better offense. Their offensive rating was 123.6 and their defensive rating was 107.9. That net rating of +15.7 was by far the best for a four man combo on the team this year. Same held true in this game. Gordon and the Core Four led to tons of points for both teams, but you take Gordon off and replace him with anyone else and you get those same points but much better defense.
Odds and Ends
Pelicans Pick and Roll offense was fantastic in this game, as they scored 39 points on 33 possessions. It would have been even better if not for a couple of sloppy turnovers. The Kings were more than happy to go under screens set or switch big men on to Gordon or Holiday, and our guards burned them when they did.
DeMarcus Cousins posted up on Ryan Anderson 10 times. The results were: 3-6 from the field, 2 turnovers and 3 fouls drawn (2 shooting). Cousins made 2 of the 4 free throws. So, in total, the Kings scored 8 points on Cousins 10 post ups against Anderson. Anderson is no match for Cousins, but you would give up 0.8 points per possession every day of the week. The bigger issue here was that it got Ryno into foul trouble, which was the main reason he was limited to just 27 and a half minutes.
Rudy Gay had 4 isolation possessions. Took 4 long jumpers. Went 0-4. And he is actually thinking about opting out of his final year, which is worth $19.3 million. And people think it is beyond the scope of reason that Gordon opts out. It’s not.
We got to see much more of Tyreke and Jrue on the floor together than usual because of the injury to Gordon, and they were spectacular. The hardest question to answer in this one is: Who was better? Honestly, I can’t answer. I give them both A’s.
AD’s jumper was off all night despite getting relatively open looks, but he still found a way to put up 21 and 11, mostly due to his aggressiveness. He ran the court hard all night and got to the free throw line 10 times. Even when he’s bad, he’s great.
We are about to see some beautiful basketball, as the Pelicans destroy the Nuggets before getting revenge on the Trailblazers in perhaps the best game of the season.