Pelicans Upset the Thunder . . . Again

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Published: February 26, 2016

The New Orleans Pelicans (23-34) entered their game with the Oklahoma City Thunder (41-17) with just 10 active players following the report that newly signed Bryce Dejean-Jones has been sidelined with a fractured wrist. However, the Pelicans managed to stay competitive with the very good team lurking in the shadow of great teams. The Pelicans managed a respectable and solid win over the Thunder, 123-119, with quarter differentials of 3, -6, 5, and 2.

Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 30 points on 26 shots, which is not terribly efficient, but added 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 4 blocks in 38 minutes. Surprisingly, Anderson, Cole, and Holiday each added over 20 points. Douglas and Cunningham had double-digit games, and Ajinca added just 2 points but 7 rebounds to lead the team in just 19 minutes. Cole and Holiday had 17 assists compared to 8 turnovers, and the rest of the team added 12 more assists. The Pelicans shot well, going 17 of 18 from 1, 35 of 70 from 2, and 12 of 20 from 3. Killer.

Of the Thunder’s 119, 76 were from Durant and Westbrook, with 43 coming from the rest of the team. The Pelicans fielded some odd defenses with Douglas guarding Durant in stretches. Durant killed Douglas in these times, but the Pelicans kept up their pesky attacks and switches, and just forced Durant and Westbrook to shoulder the burden of the game. It was close, but the gamble paid off pretty handily, and more than the score lets on.

To be clear, this is not the weakened Pelicans proving that they are a playoff team or flashing their new identity in all likelihood. Very good teams lose 25% of their games, and some of those are too poor teams, particularly when the better team is on a road game in the second game of a back to back against a rested home team with a couple of good-to-great players. However, the is the second game this week where the Pelicans showed us something we’ve been waiting for. Sunday, it was Davis going bananas. Tonight, it was a team playing fast and pesky, launching shots, and playing some team basketball. Even with Pondexter, Gordon, Dejean-Jones, Asik, and Evans down, they managed to capitalized on a down game from the Thunder, if not from Durant and Westbrook.

Taking stock of where this leaves our team. They play again Saturday night against the Timberwolves in the Smoothie King Center at 6 pm. At 23-34, they have 25 games left to play and are in the 11th seed in the West. They are 5.5 games behind the Rockets, who are in eighth, with Sacramento and the Jazz in between. The Nuggets are a half-game behind the Pelicans while the Kings are a game-and-a-half ahead. As such, there is little hope for the playoffs, and that “just n games” thing has been 4-6 since December and it has not closed because the team is playing about 0.500 ball and there are so many other teams in the same basic position.

Recognizing this, the Pelicans are in that 6-9 range in terms of lottery odds, though that can change, more likely with shrinking odds for he same reason that they will not make the playoffs. The 5th lottery slot is just as far away as the playoffs and there are other teams that can grab it. They may lay an egg against Minnesota or other weaker teams, but tanking teams don’t beat the Thunder in that fashion. With Gordon coming back, maybe that is worth a little more.

Some regret the wins for various reasons, and I get that their in a value in lottery odds, as anyone who was at the Anthony Davis draft know. I remember sitting back with a team official just before the ceremony was televised at Manning’s. Chris Trew was off Trewing, some of the other guys were milling about, and it was just a good time. They asked me what I thought the outcome was going to be. I said, as I had to, “5 and 10,” as that was most probable (0.2818 joint probability). Instead, it was 1 and 10 (0.1241 joint probability), and said official joyfully gave me the business which I joyfully took, taking solace in my calculations and them being defied by circumstances. That was a good day, but so was Sunday. So was today. Days like those for anyone watching are part of what this organization is selling.

On the most recent podcast, I said about 35 wins will be what they end up with, playing about 0.500 ball until the end. Ryan had them playing worse, Nick had them playing better. Where do you think they’ll fall?

One Comment

  1. NOEngineer

    February 26, 2016 at 4:32 am

    Shout out to Perkins for two big assists in the fourth quarter.   His skill set is limited and he is out of shape, but he does what the coaching staff wants him to do.   A little more of that spread around the team would go a long way.
    Does anyone prefer Eric Gordon to Toney Douglas?   If so, why?  I don’t.  
    I would be happy to lose Gordon, Evans, Babbit, and Cole and keep everyone else.    Replace them with Denzel Valentine and 2-3 other high-IQ low-variance wings that can defend without fouling and make a decent rate of 3-pointers.   Anderson is the only high-variance guy I would keep, because of his offense and his off-court value.
    Bigs- Davis/Anderson/Asik/Ajinca/Perkins
    Wings – Pondexter/New Guy/Jones/Cunningham/Gee
    Playmakers – Holiday/Valentine/Douglas/New Guy
    Start Davis/Asik/Pondexter/Valentine/Douglas before the injury plague.
    Continue the hated bench role for Holiday.    He is thriving, so don’t fight it!

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