Pelicans Play Well Enough, Then Quit Against Magic

Published: December 29, 2015

The New Orleans Pelicans (10-21) continued their road woes as the lost to the Orlando Magic (18-13). The Pelicans are 4 games out of the eighth seed in the West with 5 teams in between.

The Pelicans found themselves in a hole early when an uncharacteristically efficient run by the Magic forced a timeout. The Pelicans countered by being aggressive on offense and making the Magic’s habits come out, which is jump shooting. The tied the game, closing the quarter down 2 after a turnover. The second quarter was really pretty tight, and though the Pelicans lost another two points on the Magic, the game seemed within reach given the Pelicans’ tendency to slip irrecoverably on road trips.

The third quarter mirrored the first, and Gentry pulled the starters. They did not sit the rest of the game, or even the rest of the quarter for most of them, but that was the end of the game.

Scott Skiles has the Magic playing fundamentally sound defense, and that led to some offense for them later in the game. They have some dynamic scoring guards and a big man that can hustle, work under the rim, and drive to it if need be. That should sound somewhat like the the Pelicans, but it doesn’t. On paper, the Pelicans have more talent, but in practice, under Gentry and under Williams, it is not translating, and the Magic beat the Pelicans 104-89 in a contest that was actually farther apart than the score suggests.

There is a problem on this team. Coach Williams didn’t solve it, but he worked around it somehow. Now Alvin Gentry is left to solve it, at least until Dell Demps perhaps does so.

I believe there is a fundamental flaw in the leadership of this team on the court. Davis is unquestionably the best player, and he has the largest contract (this matters), but he’s nearly got the longest tenure on the team, that contract is not paying him yet, and he’s still young. The entire premise of the Gentry hire was to make Davis the focus of the team. Good idea or not, that is the organizing principle. Clearly, every possession can’t go to Davis, or he ends up playing 5-on-1. Pondexter, Holiday, and Asik all defer to Davis in one way or another. That leaves one slot open for Gordon or Evans. This ends up being a fair mix of talent that can threaten defenses enough to keep them honest and make them pay when they are not. There will be churn as the backups come in and out, but Davis needs to spend the majority of his minutes without more than one other real offensive focus on the court. At the end of games, there is temptation to put all the best players out there, but if those four players behind Davis do not respect the system, or even if just one does not, then this needs to be revisited.

Waiting for the Holiday and Pondexter return to starting duties is a way to manage the personalities as the depth chart and rotation takes the turn it’s needed to for a while, and that is for Evans to go to the bench and run the second unit as he sees fit, which is exactly the premise under which he was brought to this team.

Managing personalities from one of the powerful unions that happen to be elite athletes and quite rich is very difficult. This may be the real issue with team. There are the home-road differences, defensive lapses, and more, but sometimes things just “click” when the right change is make.

Maybe this is it, and we just need Holiday and Pondexter to return to the starting lineup to not just offer their talent, but to allow Coach Gentry to better align the rest of the talent on the team, as well.

The Pelicans close 2015 by hosting the Los Angeles Clippers who are without Blake Griffin on New Year’s Eve at 7 pm CT (UTC -6) and is distributed in the standard manner.


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