Pelicans Completely Fold Against Suns

Published: December 19, 2015

The New Orleans Pelicans (7-19) effectively quit in their latest “effort” against the Phoenix Suns (12-16). The score of 104-88 shows a decisive victory, but it does not indicate the absolutely unacceptable reasons why the game was decided so early in the contest.

In the pre-game post, efficiency, turnovers, and getting to the line were all discussed. The Pelicans were a healthy 32-38 from the line (led by Gordon’s 9-11 performance) compared to 10-17 for the Suns. This 22 points was, of course, completely earned by the Pelicans, but it cover up a 94-56 level of domination from the field. Moreover, that’s 94 field points on 84 shots compared to 56 field points on 71 shots. That unbelievable. So, the pre-game comment about free throws was spot on.

The pre-game comment about efficiency was not. The Suns’ defense is normally poor because they allow efficient performances, but that was no issue against the Pelicans.

This is where it gets dicey. Why? Why could they not perform? Well, they actually did in the first quarter. They ran plays, moved the ball, had Phoenix on their heels defensively. Several plays were run to get Gordon the ball open at different spots along the arc. There were executed well, and Gordon took the shots without deliberation (which was an issue earlier in the season). Most of the shots did not fall; he was 1-6 from three in the first, then 0-1, 1-1, 0-0 for the rest of the game. Wait, what? Yeah, the game changed that much for the Pelicans.

It wasn’t just Gordon, and it was not the defense of the Suns causing these shots to rim out at a higher than normal rate (as measured by eyeballs and the heart of a fan). Cunningham was the recipient of some good passes at the end of good plays for two near-mid-range shots, but they did not fall (those were his only attempts in his 5 minutes).

Still, the Pelicans had the lead early, then lost it after a quick surge by the Suns. After Gordon’s misses from the arc, Anderson came in, promptly missed a three (he ended up with 3 points on 3 shots in 21 minutes), and the score ballooned for the home team. It wasn’t just Anderson or Asik that made the difference. When the plan did not work and the first set of changes did not work, the Pelicans just quit. It was obvious. Alvin Gentry said so . . . after the first quarter.

There are other issues, like Davis not being decisive in his leadership (which is not necessarily behind schedule, but he acknowledged this himself in an taped interview shown in the game . . . he cited age, but experience and that salary bump will make a difference in time). Evans’ continual lapsing back into relying on himself rather than the game plan remains an issue, and it’s painfully obvious when you look for it. I hear other mention it, but when they are also just grinding their personal axes, it covers up any sense they actually make.

This team needs new blood, and we all knew it this offseason. The question is when they can get it. I’m sure someone is going to say Gentry was supposed to be that or whatnot, and that is what the team was selling this offseason, but that’s your fault if you bought it. I’m on record as to my thoughts on the Gentry hire, including why it was made and why Williams was dismissed, and as to why moves were not made this summer, but this team will not get better until some players are traded. I hear Gordon and Asik, and I understand the desire, but that is wrong on two counts. First, they can’t actually improve by dumping these player. Second, these players serve roles that are hard to fill and the team wants and needs them filled. I know many “experts” disagree with me on Asik, and that is fine; it looks like the team and Davis agree. I’ve said for a while the players likely to be cashed in are Evans and Anderson. They are players of value whose fit is increasingly worse on this team. They need to move whatever they can, sans Davis and Holiday (not that he’s a hot item today) to get that player to sit between Davis and Holiday, and it needs to happen by February, likely, because it’ll be much harder this summer when every team is flush with cap space.

Mike has used the term “blow it up” to mean something less than it is taken as, and I think there needs to be less change than he does, largely, I think, because I do not believe that Dell believes that this version of the Pelicans’ core was ever expected to be a stable core (though I do believe there is shock and just how bad it is post-Williams). The histrionics around this idea are laughable, however. It’s amazing how much of the conversation surrounding this team merely an imperfect echo chamber where things are repeated and misunderstood to the point of nausea.

At any rate, until then, it’s a matter of getting these guys to play hard through adversity and play smart when they are on top; both are proving a challenge, and that is the main reason the defense is horrible.

The Pelicans’ long road trip ends against the Nuggets Sunday at 7 pm CT (UTC -6).


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