Pelicans lose big to the Trail Blazers

Published: December 20, 2014

Tonight nothing seemed to work. The Pelicans strength has been their offense and a lot of that is due to Anthony Davis’ stellar play. For proceedings this evening Davis was struggling. The Blazers did an excellent job defensively forcing him into tough shots and making sure that when he missed they pushed the ball up the court.

Not only did the Blazers do a masterful job defensively, they put the ball into Aldridge’s hands who outplayed his counterpart in every conceivable way. Most of his work came off pick and roll/pop rubs where Davis would hedge. This would create enough room for LaMarcus to get to the basket or take a good mid-range look.

Things didn’t get much better after the first half. It was more of the same. Jagged offense was complemented by defense that was out of sorts and unsure of how to limit their opponents. Damian Lillard hit a long three at 5:56 in the third to put Portland up 29 and things were pretty much done.


  • There was a telling period early in the first quarter. The Blazers missed a layup and the ball bounced of the rim towards several Pelican potential rebounders. Instead of being able to pull the ball in, it ricocheted off several hands then into the grasp of a Portland Trail Blazer. Another miss, another offensive rebound and then another before a mid-range jumper was splashed in. It seemed that since that sequence the Pelicans just couldn’t get into things. When easy look opportunities were missed it seemed to manifest itself more as time went on.
  • Give credit to Portland. They were 4-1 on back to backs tonight, but coming off a triple overtime win. From the very beginning they were moving the ball, cutting and playing with energy on defesne. They are a better team and their record conveys that.
  • I must have a bit of a diatribe about the Pelicans defense. For most of the season we’ve known of their struggles on that side of the court. It’s not so much what goes wrong as that they haven’t found a way to do things well. There isn’t really an aspect of the defense that excels outside of Anthony Davis blocked shots and the occasional steal (rank 19th in the league). The pick and roll is where much of the problems starts and end. The players seem unsure of how to defend this. The big man will do one thing with the guard playing it another way. Both might go with the ball and leave the big man wide open for a jumper. Sometimes the guard gets stuck behind the pick and the big man stays on his man giving the ball handler an easy lane to the basket. I don’t know how this aspect of the game improves; I’m not a professional basketball coach. What I can say is that the team is young and has played very little together. But, I am still concerned that progress has yet to be made defensively and any qualifier used prior to criticism doesn’t alleviate concerns for this season.
  • Austin Rivers had a pretty solid game this evening. 21 points on just 9 shots (56% from the field), 11-12 from free-throw land, 3 assists, 0 turnovers. He was in control for much of the game but the reason he had a good one was two things: one, he was hitting tough layup shots and two he hit his free-throws. I really hope that Rivers continues to put out performances like this. What would help is if he could hit some more threes. It would added a second dimension to his game which he sorely needs if he isn’t hitting his layups or getting to the line.
  • Ryan Anderson was doing work on offense but he’s a big part of the defensive struggles. Chris Kaman pretty much bullied him for post-position and when matched up against the athletic Thomas Robinson he was beat for easy dunks. How the Pelicans develop on defense will depend a lot on how Ryan figures out how to improve. It seems that teams are quietly figuring out that running sets through the man who Anderson is guarding is working more often than not.

I would advise fans not to over-react too much to tonight’s game. The Pelicans were playing very good basketball prior to this. They beat a good Rockets team as well as a very competent Cleveland outfit. Tonight was an extension of the Pelicans issues. They’re a bad defensive team and are far too reliant on their 2-man offensive game-plan. They weren’t passing the ball and sort of imploded in on themselves. It doesn’t mean this is a sign of things to come though. We’ve been here before. In fact, we’ve been in an almost exact opposite situation when the Pelicans completely destroyed the Minnesota Timberwolves.

To clarify this further it also means that the issues displayed tonight are not glossed over. This is a young team that needs time to develop. We mentioned in today’s pre-game post that the top lineup has played just over 140 minutes together. Portland’s top lineup has played over 450 minutes together.

Tomorrow the Pelicans take on the Oklahoma City Thunder who will be without Kevin Durant.


  1. NOEngineer

    December 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I dislike the lack of offensive execution by Holiday, Evans, and Davis.  15 misses at least from less than 3 feet.  But, I HATE the lack of effort displayed on defense repeatedly throughout the game.    Blazers would have an open look and nobody from our team would even make a feint in their direction.    We lost most of the 50/50 balls, and did not fight for rebounds.   I can’t come up with a reasonable excuse.
    This was only the second game I can remember leaving early in my 5 years as a STH.  The other was the game that must never be mentioned which was many years ago.   The lack of effort and pride was so bad, I couldn’t justify wasting my family’s time after 3 quarters of loser-ball.    Merry Christmas, fans!

  2. PelicanSaints

    December 20, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    The ups and downs of a young team…I thought Monty didn’t help matters by going small late in the first while the Blazers stayed big……From that point on, we were toast…..

  3. Pelican Poster

    December 20, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Certainly a downer as I couldn’t make the game but wore my Pelicans gear anyway and watched at a Christmas party I attended at someone’s house who is also a STH.  Just so inexplicable, as from the start you could tell things weren’t quite right and the ball was not going to bounce our way. I am getting fed up with the defensive breakdowns…is there really that many ways to guard a pick and roll…help defense anyone?  Can not stand seeing a guy get beat and no one taking a single step to leave their man who is further away from the goal to stop a guy heading to the rim.  A supposedly defensive minded team would have to work on these things a lot wouldn’t you think?  Sometimes it just makes no sense…do we lack basketball intelligence?

  4. Come On Pelican

    December 21, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Shortly before AD23 was mercifully pulled from the game last night against the Blazers, there was an ISO in the low post by LaMarcus Aldridge — who outweighs AD by 30 to 40 pounds — where Aldridge dribbled 4 or 5 times, backed his way towards the basket by literally pushing AD out of the way and then tossed up a one handed shot from 5 feet that bounced around the rim and went in.  That — plus the half dozen missed layups by a smorgasbord of Pelicans players in the 1st half — was the story of the game. AD23 is clearly the future of our franchise, but we occasionally have to be reminded like this that he is still a youngster who is still growing into his game.  It was fun to get excited during the Pelicans’ recent run of good games, but seeing Aldridge school AD as he did last night certainly brought this Pelicans fan back to Earth.  It will continue to be a fun season to watch as Davis continues to develop into a legit NBA superstar, in spite of reminders like last night’s loss against Portland that let us know there is still a ways to go.

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