AD Returns to Form, But Pelicans Can’t Return to Win Column

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Published: November 6, 2015

0-5 is never a good look, but all losses are not created equally. A loss is not indicative of bad play, just like every win is not indicative of good play. Anthony Davis was fantastic tonight, and the Pelicans had stretches where they looked unguardable, but Atlanta held off every surge to win 121-115. Anthony Davis finished the game with a remarkable 43 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks, but even more importantly, he played with the fire and focus we saw last season. The first four games have been frustrating for the franchise’s cornerstone, and it resulted in uneven¬†performances and a generally poor attitude. Not tonight, though, as Davis got his teammates and the crowd fired up on numerous occasions and was even there to calm his coach down when he got heated.

Overall, it was a night of ups and downs that just happened to have a poor end result because the Hawks are the better team. New Orleans had the best player on the court, but Atlanta came at the Pelicans in waves and they had an answer for everything that was thrown at them. When AD tied the game late in the 4th, Kyle Korver came down and hit an impossible three. After a few stops, the lead was back up to 7, and when you add in a couple of questionable calls by the refs, it was too big of a hole to overcome for an undermanned team.

It comes off as an excuse, but the lack of quality players on this roster is a legitimate hinderance to this team. With Holiday on restriction, and Tyreke, Cole, Pondexter, and Asik out, the Pelicans are forced to give huge minutes to guys who shouldn’t be on the court. A person who didn’t watch the game might see 8 points and 11 assists from Ish Smith and think he did good work, but if you did watch, you saw his lack of shooting kill the offense. The Hawks didn’t even bother to guard him and it killed the spacing. Luke Babbitt is a nice 10th man, but he shouldn’t be getting 29 minutes, and Alonzo Gee probably shouldn’t be playing at all.

Meanwhile, Jrue Holiday just can’t get in a flow because he is only out there for 4-5 minute stretches at a time. He took just 2 shots and had 7 turnovers. He looks so hesitant out there, and just as he starts to push it a little, he has to come out because of his restriction. Jrue is playing in most of these games, but you might as well add him to the injury list. And yet the Pelicans made a game of it against a very good Atlanta team. Eric Gordon gave his all on both ends and finished with 22 points. Ryan Anderson couldn’t find his stroke early, but kept plugging away and had a put back jam that got the crowd on their feet.

But really, it was the Anthony Davis show. Finally. We have been waiting four games for AD to put this team on his back, and he finally did for the most part. He got some clean looks on the elbow and around the free throw line, and they finally found him in transition as well. The half court is still tough because opposing teams simply don’t respect the guys he is on the court with, and that leads to a lane that is almost always clogged. But AD didn’t hang his head and sulk the way he did in previous contests. He kept plugging away and got to the line, or created an open look for a teammate, or attacked the rim off the dribble.

Davis is, without doubt, a more skilled player than he was last season. Paul Milsap ran out to him at the three-point line and AD took it all the way to the rim with multiple dribbles and finished smoothly. He was a one-dribble guy a year ago. He took a three in a big spot tonight and swished it – his fifth made three of the season. He had one last year. He is simply better, and all this attention he is getting while his teammates are out will make him that much better when they return. He will know how to score when double teamed and/or be able to find the open man in those situations.

There are always silver linings if you look for them. Yes, it would be nice to get a win, but you can find solace in improvement. And the Pelicans are definitely doing that, even if the end result appears the same.

Notes and Observations

  • I don’t want to pick on Ish Smith, but it is almost impossible to accomplish what Gentry aspires to accomplish offensively when the other team doesn’t even guard one of your perimeter players. Gentry would send Ish to the weak side, but that just allowed his defender to stand in the paint and disrupt any passing lanes. Same goes for Alonzo Gee, and even Toney Douglas. In a tight game, those guys played 46 minutes. Hard to imagine this is still a loss if those minutes go to Pondexter, Cole, an/or Tyreke
  • You put the ball in Ajinca’s hands and he scores, but the Pelicans just had so much more success playing three guards and Ryno/AD, so Ajinca didn’t get much run. Curious to see if this staff can find a way to truly utilize him.
  • Gordon tries so hard on defense, but his size is just too big a limitation for this scheme. Erman and Gentry would love to switch a ton, but when they would do that with Gordon, he would give up offensive rebounds and easy points to whomever he switched on to. It’s really unfortunate.
  • Ryan Anderson and Luke Babbitt both had some wide open three’s they just couldn’t knock down, especially in the 2nd quarter when the Hawks went on their big run. The two finished 3-13 from deep, and played their typical below average defense. You can benefit from those guys when they are hitting, but the bricks and the bad D was instrumental to the loss.
  • Pels play Dallas tomorrow night. Jrue probably sits, which means at least 48 minutes of Ish and Douglas – probably more. Gonna need another monster from AD to avoid going 0-6.

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