Glory Days: Dwight Howard Eats His Wheaties

Published: June 22, 2014

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.

A lot of Pelicans fans have argued (with evidence in hand) that the Pelicans are a better basketball team with Anthony Davis playing as a 5. The argument has validity and the numbers to back it, but tonight, we saw glimpses of why Anthony Davis could not play full-time center every night. Although Ryan Anderson dealt with Dwight Howard, Davis spent much of the game without a “true center” next to him, and Dwight went absolutely wild. Not Bynum wild, but Howard was dancing in spirit tonight. On a few occasions where Howard got Davis switched onto him, he threw Davis under the goal like a rag doll. The advantage will diminish as Davis gets stronger, but retroactively speaking, I can see why Monty chose to limit Davis’s time at center. The Pelicans were abused at the rim tonight.

But there is an upside to playing a seemingly disadvantaged big man against Howard, and it is that his team will sometimes get away from what it does well to force-feed him the ball. Howard may have been nearly perfect from the field, but his 8 turnovers were a stain on an otherwise flawless performance.

Game Flow (courtesy of Popcorn Machine).. Click to enlarge

Rockets pelicans


I have spent much of the offseason singing Jrue Holiday’s praises, but tonight was just not his night. His defensive work on James Harden (more on that later) was valuable, but Patrick Beverley’s hounding defense was absent tonight and Jrue failed to capitalize. Dwight Howard may not be the game-changing defensive presence he was in Orlando, but he bothered Jrue into some poor decisions on drives. His shot was also off and that contributed to one of his worst offensive performances of the season.

You can see instances where just a bit of added strength would do wonders for Davis. On this play, he gets Casspi and is looking for the ball. Casspi winds up fronting him, Darius Miller passes to Ajinca  (I’m assuming to change the passing angle to Davis), but Ajinca pulls up instead. If Davis could have sealed Casspi better, this is an easy two points. Instead, the Pelicans got a missed jumper. Little things make a big difference.

Right here, you see a tiny adjustment after Parsons gets lazy and cheats on Evans going to the top of the key to collect the ball. Instead, Evans cuts to the basket for an easy deuce. I like this.

We saw this season that you simply cannot switch an undersized point guard on Tyreke Evans. He will just bully his way to the rim.

Having lethal shooters exerts so much pressure on a defense. Anthony Morrow cannot create off the dribble, but his 3 point jumper is threatening and it creates opportunities to attack late or bad closeouts. He misses here, but it’s a look that he’d knock down 50-60% of the time. Not all midrange shots are bad. But this one  (by Evans) is. STYLE POINTS!

The post is such a good vehicle for open 3s. The Pelicans run Horns here to establish post position for Holiday, who elects to take a fadeaway. If Aminu is a normal small forward, this could be an open 3.

I spoke a lot this postseason about how dangerous Davis could be even if he can’t roll all the way to the rim. Ryno’s timely pass gives Davis a lot of options. Davis grew as a passer after Jrue and Ryno went down, and if he is surrounded by shooters and guards who can hit him on the roll in the future, he will literally be unstoppable. As will the Pelicans offense.

You cannot ever give Ryno any space. Ever.

Sometimes Jrue Holiday is too passive. I know Terrence Jones is there, but I’ll take a layup attempt over a long 2 point jumper.

Rivers has put in considerable work on his floater, but he takes them so far away. But the spot-up shooting today was good and continues to be one of the most under-appreciated parts of his game (check his spot-up numbers, not his overall 3 pt %, because he is terrible shooting from 3 if it’s not a spot up opportunity). Has there ever been a New Orleans player so radically different from his college scouting report?

The Pelicans lost this game in the 4th quarter, but it wasn’t because of their offense, which put up a respectable 25 points. Speaking of defense..


If Dwight Howard is the roll man, then the onus is on the Pelican guarding the ball-handler to recover before D12 can beat Anthony Davis or Ryan Anderson to the rim. If he beats you to the rim, like he did here, it’s over. You can attempt to chip at him with a 3rd defender to prevent a straight-line roll, but then you run the risk of another Rocket getting an open 3.

Chandler Parsons killed his defenders with pump fakes all night.

Terrence Jones killed the Pelicans by working off the ball. Davis quits tracking Jones to stop Lin’s drive and Jones sandwiches himself between Davis and an unaware Aminu. Sweet pass, easy dunk. And then Jones runs the floor and gets the basket plus the foul.

Ryan Anderson tried a variety of techniques to deal with Howard, and on this play he navigates through a cross screen and then fronts Howard. But Jones gets in the lane, Anderson loses track of Howard for a split second, and Howard punishes the rim.. that’s the problem with fronting: it often means you give up rebounding position.

Tyreke Evans cheats off of Lin too much for my taste on this play. If Howard had been less lazy, he could have easily set a solid flare screen for Lin. Missed jumper, but clean look. Lin isn’t an excellent shooter, but that’s makeable.

James Harden is so good at attacking before the defense gets set. Here, he gets an easy jumper.

An unwise Roberts gamble on the Howard entry allows Casspi an easy cut to the hoop. Also, where’s the help, Tyreke Evans?

Ryan Anderson loses Terrence Jones in favor of putting an extra body on Dwight Howard and Jones gets a pair of free throws.

Howard’s shooting sliders may have been at max, but he was making plenty of mistakes with the ball.

The Davis hedge and Holiday recovery on this play were phenomenal. As was Holiday’s defense on this block versus Aaron Brooks.

I’ve hammered Evans for some focus issues tonight, but his defense on this Harden turnover was very good. Hard to nap when you’re defending the ball.

I don’t know whether it was fatigue from playing on the second end of a back to back or just bad defense, but the Pelicans could not stop the Rockets late in the game en route to a 33 point 4th quarter and a victory. This Parsons putback more or less drove the nail in the coffin.

Lineups (Courtesy of NBA Media Stats.. Click to enlarge)

Houston Pelicans

The Rockets played small ball the entirety of the night and the Pelicans were in a constant dilemma of doubling too hard on Howard and getting burned or letting him roam free and clean up in the paint and on the offensive boards. The Pelicans had a few very good runs- a 14-5 to close the half and an 8-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter. But Chandler Parson’s re-insertion into the lineup coincided with a blistering 19-6 run by the Rockets to close the game.

The aggressive help on Howard led to a lot of hard close outs and secondary penetration by Chandler Parsons, whose pump fake (as I mentioned earlier) was on full display as Pelicans whooshed past him. Parsons was great tonight.


Standout Plays

  • Anthony Davis always brings his best against his former Cats teammates.
  • Anthony Davis
  • Dwight Howard made some terrible decisions to pass out of doubles tonight, but not on this play. What a pass.
  • Aminu hits a huge 3 at the top of the arc.
  • Miller’s patented “jump and pass it a millisecond before hitting the ground” move pays off yet again. I would prefer not to see this in the future.
  • A beautiful alley oop to Davis from Evans that suffered the wrath of some poor video editing.


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