Bad Wins and Good Losses

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Published: October 27, 2017

It is early in the NBA season and the Pelicans have shown flashes of what could be an extremely difficult to defend, well oiled, offense. They have also shown an offense that consistently shoots itself in the foot.  At times, the Pelicans have made shots running a single P&R with barely any movement after that action. They have been forced to make something out of nothing and resort to throwing up a tough shot that goes in (hell, they even won against the Kings playing like this most of the game). Other times they look great – moving the ball, screening for each other on and off ball, and getting their best players in their most effective spots to read the double then shoot, drive, or pass only for the shot to miss. Now doing all of this screening and moving is a lot of work to get the shot you want, and I can imagine that it’s frustrating missing 3-4 easy looks nearly back to back. That is probably why players revert taking tough shots with little movement, because players are tired or stars feel the need force shots when role players aren’t hitting their easy looks. This in turn causes role players to force shots when they get the ball because they are unsure when their next shot will come. Maybe it is a combination of both. Whatever the reasoning may be, this is what we have seen from the Pels offense thus far.

Just as good shots can miss, bad shots can be made. The result does not change the quality of the shot. When the Pelicans played the Kings they played a style of basketball that could only barely compete with the lowest tier teams on any given night and the Pelicans won with a herculean night from Demarcus Cousins. When the Pelicans played the Warriors, although they hit some highly questionable and uncharacteristic 3pt shots in the first half, they moved the ball consistently, screened well, and stuck with their gameplan.  Yet the Pelicans lost 128-120 and if you ask many, it never felt as though the Pelicans had a real chance of winning. Night in and night out, I would much rather see the Pels put the same effort that they had in the loss to the Warriors than the effort we saw in the win against the Kings. You should not base your comfort with how a team played solely on wins and losses. The effort they played with against the Warriors was not good enough to win and won’t be enough to win against other top tier teams such as the Cavs, but it is good enough to beat most teams in the NBA on any given night. If you lose, just tip your hat to the other team because you played to your strengths and that’s all you can really ask. The style of play in the win against the Kings was tough to watch at times, it was slow, it didn’t have any movement, and it seemed almost entirely improvised for a large portion of the game. This kind of play can win you games, but only against the worst teams in the league, and that is mainly due to having the best bigs in the league, not playing better basketball.

Now look, I’m not saying don’t be happy with the Kings win. The team fought hard in an emotional and historic game from Boogie and finished their road trip 2-1. That is something to be proud of. What I am saying is don’t be comfortable with that game or how they played as a team just because they won. If this team is going to have a successful season they will need consistent play to build their identity, not this randomness we are seeing early in the season where one game the ball is moving and guys are cutting and the next game guys look lost, stand still, and act like this is their first time playing together. Their next game is against the Cleveland Cavaliers and I don’t expect a win, but what I do expect is for the team to come out with a gameplan that doesn’t just post up Boogie (or AD if healthy) and stands still, but one that has weak side motion on post ups so Boogie can use his vision and passing skills to bust the double when it comes. One where the ball moves consistently to keep the defense on their toes. One where players actively cut and create angles for the ball to get to them, because a little movement can go a long way in the NBA.