BourbonStreetShots.com http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Sun, 29 Mar 2015 22:21:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Pels Beat Timberwolves, Close Gap on Thunder http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/29/pels-beat-timberwolves-close-gap-on-thunder/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/29/pels-beat-timberwolves-close-gap-on-thunder/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 22:21:13 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48909 The Pelicans were given an awesome opportunity tonight — though the Timberwolves have some pieces that anyone should be happy to build around, their active roster is missing so many of their key players and certainly lacks offensive punch.  And though points/game is certainly not the only stat that matters, you have to have players who can fill it up. Given who suited up tonight, the Timberwolves were always going to struggle with points, so the Pelicans winning was just a matter of running solid offense and not giving Minny extra possessions.

And that’s surely how it looked like it would turn out given the first few minutes of the game.  The Timberwolves turned it over on their first three or four possessions and looked so uncomfortable running the offense. And though the Pelicans leapt out to a 7-0 start, they weren’t exactly looking fantastic on offense either.  There were 8 turnovers before the game even passed the 9 minute mark in the first quarter. It was so ugly.

The Pels got it together, though, as Davis, Gordon, Pondexter, and Asik scored all of the Pelicans 25 points en route to a 25-11 lead.  The Timberwolves didn’t have a true primary ball-handler tonight, so they resorted to some aggressive cutting that, hopefully, could create some open shots and cutting lanes. It wasn’t working, though, and the product was a discombobulated offense where no one seemed to want to be both capable and willing to do the creating.

But the Pelicans suddenly forgot that the Timberwolves couldn’t shoot and let them close the gap as the end of the first half approached. There were some lucky bounces, sure, but the amount of clean looks that Minnesota got in the 2nd quarter was puzzling.

The second half certainly wasn’t perfect, as the Pelicans again had some perplexing defensive breakdowns against a weak offense.  But they came out firing in the 4th quarter and started to create enough room to put the Timberwolves away early. Most of the starters didn’t play at all in the 4th quarter and Anthony Davis/Gordon played a combined 6 minutes.

It wasn’t a perfect win by any means, and the Pelicans will have to play better than this if they are going to make a legitimate run at the playoffs.  But they got the job done and will get some rest before they fly out to Los Angeles for their game Wednesday.

Make sure to keep an eye on the Phoenix/OKC game tonight.  Phoenix has a brutal schedule down the stretch and Oklahoma City is facing some very tough opponents for the next 5 games.  Ground can/should be made up now before the Pelicans start facing their tougher opponents to close the season.

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Game On: Pelicans Host Timberwolves http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/29/game-on-pelicans-host-timberwolves/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/29/game-on-pelicans-host-timberwolves/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 16:23:21 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48899 The Timberwolves come into town to face a Pelicans team that has an excellent chance to make up ground on the Thunder.  The Timberwolves have been largely hapless (by design) this season, particularly without their floor general, Ricky Rubio.  Rubio is currently doubtful for today’s game and the Pelicans should roll over a Timberwolves team that is building for tomorrow, not today.

That is not to say that they don’t have talent. Andrew Wiggins is going to be a star in the NBA for years to come, and there really isn’t anyone on the Pelicans that matches up well with him.  Of course, he is also a rookie and the talent differential between the Pelicans and the Timberwolves today is likely too great for him to beat us.

The Timberwolves are without a true facilitator and much punch today – particularly if Kevin Martin (questionable) also does not play.  Beating them should be very simple – take care of the ball, play attentive defense, clean the glass, and walk out of today’s game with a narrower gap between us and OKC.  The Timberwolves will work to stay in the game if you let them, but just don’t have much ammo to use and it’s hard to see how they can hang with the Pels.

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Pelicans finish off Kings http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/28/pelicans-finish-off-kings/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/28/pelicans-finish-off-kings/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 05:55:41 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48890 Like all monarchies, the Kings were too entirely dependent on one guy tonight.  So, despite that guy being absolutely amazing, the Pelicans shrugged off a slow start and punished the rest of the Kings, dropping 28 points in each of the final three quarters.  The silly part about this is I thought Asik was playing Cousins pretty well.  He contested a bunch of shots Cousins sank early from long range, and then fought him tough all night long, making him take tough shots over outstretched arms.  Of course, Cousins put together a 39 and 20 on 28 shots, so maybe the idea of what Asik was doing was better than the reailty.

Also – and this is probably not what people want to hear after a win – the Pelicans offense sputtered a lot tonight.  Throughout the second half, New Orleans kept finding itself with just a few seconds left on the shot clock after most of their attempts to get the ball into the paint were turned back.  Time after time, Cole, Pondexter and Tyreke Evans would bail the team out with long jumpers that weren’t good shots – they were just necessary shots.  It was good to see them hit those, but it was not easy to watch, that’s for sure.

Observations

  • At one point in the first quarter, the teams combined for 11 possessions that had 5 airballs, 4 turnovers, and 3 missed free throws – and one make.  Just bad basketball.
  • Also in the first quarter, the Kings were super-aggressive at getting out and running the ball down the Pelicans throat.  As usual, the Pelicans were terrible at stopping it.  We can all thank the Kings (and Cousins) for slowing down and playing half-court basketball after the first half of the first quarter.  If they had kept up the attack, the Pels would have lost.
  • George Karl absolutely made the right decision putting Gay on Davis.  Rudy has the speed to stay in front of him and the hops to actually challenge his shots.  Davis struggled most of the night against him  until he figured out late in the game that if he got a shoulder into Gay, he could control the situation enough to get off a clean look.  I’d lay most of the un-Davis like line of 24 points on 26 shots at Rudy Gay’s door.
  • At first, you want to focus on the flopping that both Asik and Cousins were doing as they battled around the rim.  It was kinda silly to see both guys whining and complaining and flinging their arms about in exaggerated motions all game.  But I do want to challenge you.  The Pels play the Kings next week.  Take three early possessions with those two battling each other and just watch them, not the ball.  There is a lot of theatrics, but also a lot of power behind all the elbows and shoulders being thrown around down there.  I wouldn’t want any part of that.
  • Pondexter quietly stuck his shots and ended with 16.  The guy can be very effective when his shot is falling.
  • Not a lot of ball movement tonight as both Tyreke and Davis went iso-ball.  The end result of that is the 6 shots Eric Gordon got.  If those two aren’t moving the ball willingly, Gordon is pretty much a non-entity.
  • Evans went for 25 and 10 on only 15 shots, but all game long he made my stomach hurt.  Lots of jumpers (he stuck a good number) and a lot of fizzled forays that were cut off, leading to 10 seconds being wasted on the clock over and over.  Don’t get me wrong – the Pelicans don’t win this game without Evans – but half the shots he took were bad ones.
  • Cole was on tonight.  So – would you prefer a guard who puts up a nice consistent 8 points on 7 shots every night – or one like Cole who puts up either 2 points – or a point total in the teens.  It seems like there is no in between for him.

Next game is Sunday against the Wolves.  Early tip of time for those of you attending!

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Game On: Kings @ Pelicans http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/27/game-on-kings-pelicans-4/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/27/game-on-kings-pelicans-4/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:31:03 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48887 The playoffs are a longshot now, but if the race is to even remain interesting, the Pelicans have to string some wins together over this soft part of their schedule. Which means taking down Sacramento, on a 4-game win streak of their own, tonight in New Orleans.

Sacramento isn’t a total joke this year, as Rudy Gay has found a way to draw fouls at a career high rate, and DeMarcus Cousins continues to be an offensive beast.   The result is an offense that is good enough – if their opponent doesn’t execute and take advantage of the horrendeous Sacramento defense – to win some games.

Keys to the game

  • Remember that transition defense exists.  After watching multiple teams, including the Rockets and Bucks recently, simply rebound a Pelicans miss and get a layup because the Pelicans aren’t getting back, this needs to be said.  Omri Casspi is excellent in transition.  Rudy Gay likes that too.  McLemore as well.  If the Pelicans decide that running after misses might be a good idea, the Kings are going to get lots of easy points.
  • Run switches to get Davis guarded by DeMarcus, then run an Evans-Davis pick and roll right at him.  Cousins likes to use his hands when beat and can end up fouling a lot.  Both those guys can get him reaching – and if Cousins is on the bench, the Kings are done . . .
  • Give them the midrange.  Cousins, Gay and Landry all have moments of extreme effectiveness, but none of that stretches to 18-foot jumpers on a consistent basis.  Make it easy for them to try those shots.  Live with it.

Enjoy the game.

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The Pelicans’ Surprisingly Reasonable Path to a Top-10 Defense http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/26/the-pelicans-surprisingly-reasonable-path-to-a-top-10-defense/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/26/the-pelicans-surprisingly-reasonable-path-to-a-top-10-defense/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:04:05 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48876 As we all know, the Pelicans have again endured countless injuries which have again derailed the team’s quest for its first playoff berth since Chris Paul left town. Despite this recurring theme, New Orleans has maintained a top-10 offensive rating this season (hovering right around 105 points per 100 possessions), a remarkable feat when you consider who the Pelicans have been forced to start at times this year. Apart from injuries and the depth of the Western Conference, the main issue keeping the Pelicans from becoming an annual postseason lock comes on the defensive side of the ball.

In Anthony Davis’ three years in New Orleans, the team has ranked 28th, 25th and now 24th in the NBA in defensive rating. None of these rankings are more surprising than the present one, as many expected Omer Asik to help vault the defense to at least league average caliber. Instead, while the team has improved its defensive rating a full 2.5 points per 100 possessions, it has barely moved the needle from a league ranking perspective. Additionally, the Pelicans are allowing the second most points in the paint per game in the NBA, a number that is initially hard to come to terms with given the team’s supposedly elite defensive front court duo of Davis and Asik. A common response to these unsettling statistics is to say that Asik’s limited offensive repertoire is costing the team more than his defense is benefiting it, and that the Pelicans’ latest front court experiment has failed.

Nope. Not even a little bit.

Most of the more avid Pelicans fans (as well as frequenters of this site) understand that core of the Pelicans’ defensive issues lie not at the rim, but on the perimeter. However, that fact doesn’t automatically mean Asik has done enough defensively for the team to be sold on him as the starting center moving forward. What has been very difficult to quantify is exactly how good the Pelicans’ starting front court of Asik and Davis has been defensively relative to the rest of the defense. Statistical tools such as ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus are created with this goal in mind, but it does so through numerous regressions which are not exactly easy to explain. While not quite as scientific, I believe to have found a way to at least begin to point us in the right direction.

With the help of the NBA’s Stats database, I sorted every two-man unit in the NBA by 2014-15 defensive rating (with a qualifier of at least 1,000 minutes played together for each set of two players). Of those duos, Anthony Davis and Omer Asik come in 33rd in the NBA, allowing opponents to score 99.3 points per 100 possessions while they are on the court together. Of course, there is a great deal of noise in these numbers, as each duo is heavily impacted by the other three players with whom they share the court. This explains why Warriors 2-man units hold each of the top 8 spots in these rankings. To paint a better picture of exactly how impressive Davis & Asik have been defensively, I grouped each of the top 35 defensive duos by team, listed how many unique pairs of players for each team appeared in the top 35, and also gave the team’s 2014-15 defensive rating for reference. (Note: a player can appear more than once, just never with the same second player.) Take a look:

Screenshot 2015-03-26 at 3.01.31 PM

An example of how to interpret this table: the league-leading Warriors defense has 9 unique pairs of players who have played at least 1,000 minutes together this season that rank among the top-35 pairs in 2-man defensive rating. Intuitively, it should make sense that the league’s best defense boasts many pairs of players appearing on this list, because the Warriors play such good defense as a team. Only once do a pair of players from a defense that ranks in the bottom half of the NBA appear on this list, and that’s Anthony Davis and Omer Asik of the Pelicans. You can see similar impacts being made by players like Rudy Gobert for Utah and Nerlens Noel for Philadelphia, but both of these players are part of defenses that are among the top half of the league this season (it should also be noted that the two Philly pairings are the only two on the list with negative net ratings). New Orleans falls well below that mark as a team, and yet Davis and Asik are still finding a way to make the defense not just good, but great, when they’re both on the floor together.

So what does this mean going forward? Simply put, that Asik & Davis are indeed a fantastic defensive pairing, and they will only get better as Davis continues to gain experience at the NBA level and approaches his prime. With the return of a healthy Jrue Holiday, this Pelicans team may be just one strong wing defender away from not only a league-average defense, one that ranks comfortably in the top half of the league. For a second, imagine either of these two scenarios:

A) Tyreke’s 6’6″ frame covering opposing PGs, Jrue & 3&D Free Agent X on the wings, Davis & Asik front court
B) Jrue pestering PGs, Pondexter & 3&D Free Agent X on the wings, Davis & Asik front court

The conversation of who that undetermined “3 & D free agent” may be is a topic for another day, but the player who makes the most sense to me given the Pelicans’ current financial constraints would be either DeMarre Carroll on the more expensive end or Jared Dudley on the cheaper end. To me, a “finishing five” of Evans, Holiday, Carroll, Davis, and Asik is one that can be an excellent lineup on both sides of the ball. Furthermore, you could tinker with it by inserting Anderson for Asik to add shooting, or Pondexter/Gordon for Evans to further improve the defense/floor spacing.

The main point is this: despite the underwhelming defensive numbers for the team as a whole, Anthony Davis and Omer Asik have sufficiently proven how good this New Orleans defense can be with both of them playing together in the front court. If the Pelicans can get fully healthy and upgrade their perimeter D this summer – especially via a player with 6’7″-6’8″ size who has 3-point range – watch out.

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Quotes, Stats, and Moleskin Moments: Pels Lose A Tough One to the Rockets http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/25/quotes-stats-and-moleskin-moments-pels-lose-a-tough-one-to-the-rockets/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/25/quotes-stats-and-moleskin-moments-pels-lose-a-tough-one-to-the-rockets/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 04:47:55 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48870 The New Orleans Pelicans (37-34) suffered a huge loss to the Houston Rockets (48-24). The Pelicans lead by as many as 17 in the second quarter, but went into the half only up by 3. Later, they trailed by as many as 11.

Stats that really stick out: The Pelicans gave up 62 points in the paint. 50 of the Rockets’ 81 shots came inside the paint. They took 22 shots from beyond the arc. In other words, only 9 shots came outside of their comfort zone. The Pelicans never forced this team to take the midrange jumpers, never took away their offense. The Rockets simply went from missing shots to making shots. The Pelicans also took 32 free throws, but missed 12. Anthony Davis by himself went 6/14 from the line. At one point the Pels were being outrebounded 38-26 (ended the game 43-37.) In the first quarter they forced six turnovers and scored 12 points off them (the Pelicans only scored seven points off turnovers the rest of the way.) Eric Gordon went 0/5 tonight, scoring only six points. The Pelicans gave up 11 fastbreak points in the second quarter, after only giving up one in the first.

 

In a game the Pels needed, they let the Rockets play exactly how they wanted to. And Rockets played their game, despite missing their starting point guard. If the Pelicans want to beat playoff teams, they need to knock them off their games. They can’t let teams like the Rockets get into their comfort zone. They have to take away something.

Quotes

Coach Monty Williams on perspective “It’s a tough loss. I was real with them. It’s a tough loss, there’s no other way to put it. I thought we did a lot to ourselves.”

After the game, once everyone cleared out, Davis came back out onto the court with a ball-boy, and took free throws until he made 100. Unlike Kobe in ’11 when there was a sleuth of reporters, by the time any of us caught wind of this and made it out there, he had made his 100 and was heading back to the lockerroom. This is a game he took personally, later saying “I don’t feel comfortable missing eight free throws especially when we lost by two. Make [those] eight free throws we win by six…Go out there, and try to figure it out.” When asked if he figured it out, he simply said “he did.” Later saying, it was “mechanical.”

Davis FTs after the game Edit

Here are the Moleskin Moments:

Pre-Game

  • Over his last five games, Davis has been averaging 5.3 assists per game. Second highest on the team over that stretch.
  • James Harden averaging 16 pts 4.5 rebs 4 asts against @PelicansNBA this year. Tame compared to his recent output. Let’s hope for more of the same.
  • Rockets average 9.5 steals per game. Second in the league behind frenetic Sixers.
  • Interesting to see if the Rockets stick with their 16 minute restriction for Dwight Howard tonight. (Have also heard 20 mins.)

1Q

  • Turnover Diff. always crucial for this team. Especially against a team like Houston. Pels winning that battle early (7 of first 8 pts off TOs.)
  • Looks like Rockets may stick to their minute restriction for Dwight. Pulled after 5 minutes.
  • 4:41 Alexis Ajinca making the midrange jumper he and Withey were working on pregame.
  • 3:55 Reke with 12 points on five shots. 2 layups, 2 threes. #JasonTerryeffect
  • 1:32 Reke drives and gets bumped, passing to Ajinca under the hoop. Ajinca bobbles/hesitates, then passes to Cunningham for a long two. Shot goes in; team is winning, but want freethrows, a dunk or a three on that kind of possession. Long two worst possible shot in that scenario.
  • Beautiful bounce pass by Tyreke for the Dante Cunningham dunk. Turnover battle biggest different in the game so far. 32-16
  • Reke with as physical of a layup as one can have to end the quarter. 14 points on a perfect 6-6 from the field. 34-19
  • 6 turnovers for 12 points for the Pelicans. 2 TOs for 2 Points for Rockets. @PelicansNBA#keystothegame
  • Potential negative after 1Q. Rockets had 16 shots in the paint, made 8 (they will make more than that if they keep getting that many.)

2Q

  • Howard in to start the 2Q. Curious if they will only play him after longer breaks in play.
  • 6 mins- Cole needs to finish that pressure release after a double on Davis. Get the ball to an open Quincy Pondexter. Better a Q-Pon 3 than a Cole runner.
  • 3 mins Small lineups with this team, requiring Cunningham to play this much, are killer. 45-40 Pels
  • 2:15 Rockets just called a timeout the Pels needed more than the Rockets. Evans three broke something like 10 straight misses and the team looked disjointed.
  • 1:12 Rockets not respecting Cole’s baseline 3, mucking up spacing when Cunningham got the ball. (Cole made a midrange jumper off the bounce tho.) 50-45

Half

  • Asik +2 Ajinca +10 Cunningham -2. Rockets went 11 of 15 in the paint in the 2Q for 22 pts. (@PelicansNBA had 18 total in the 2Q). #SizeMatters

3Q

  • 9:42 Stagnant possessions on offense, and giving up threes and frees on defense, does not bode well to start the 3Q.
  • 8:20 With Tyreke magic having possibly worn off. Where will the offense come from? Not looking good as @PelicansNBA are scoreless after 3:40.
  • 7:28 Q-Pon’s offensive rebound gave Pelicans a bucket there, but offense still stagnant, no spacing right now with Eric Gordon off his game.
  • 6:30 Harden catching on. How do the @PelicansNBA stop him? (Also how do the Pels get AD some touches. No shots so far this half.)
  • 6:00 Bad off-the-ball defense by Evans there. No man’s land. Not doubling Harden, but away from his man who was one pass away. A 3 for Ariza.
  • 3:05 Maybe if that was a 3 from Cunningham it goes in-overshot by a bit. Need someone who can make that shot for when teams flood the strong side.
  • :20 In maybe the first cut of the second half, Cunningham gets the ball and draws the foul. 2 fts.
  • .04 Gordon drive and free throws cut the lead to 8. First points for Gordon since he scored the first Pelicans points of the game.
  • 18 total points for the @PelicansNBA in the 3Q. 16 points in the paint for the Rockets in the third quarter (29 total).
  • AD on his way to a 46 minute game?

4Q

  • 9:25 Cole has to play with Lebron/Wade rules when on a fastbreak with Davis, give the ball up to him before they take the foul.
  • 8:18 4 points off turnovers since the first quarter for @PelicansNBA. Outrebound 38-26 on the game. 56-34 in points in the paint.83-76
  • 6:26 Doctor checking AD’s right shoulder after that fall.
  • 4:41 “What are you prepared to do?” moment for the Pelicans right here. 91-80 #untouchables
  • Apparently Davs was prepared to check in.
  • Got to give Davis the ball. Just for the adrenaline, he scores, roof pops off.
  • in the bonus. Need to take advantage of that. Points/stop the clock/set up the defense.
  • Huge bucket by Asik. Five point game. 1:08 left. Need a stop and bucket here. (Or some Khris Middleton magic.)
  • 3.3 seconds 95-92 Rockets Guessing Q-Pon and Gordon get the first looks. Not mad if Davis decides what could be the season too.
  • Rare time we see that implemented in the NBA .Foul. Gordon with 2 shots.  1.7 seconds.
  •  Gordon makes the first one, misses the second as time expires Rockets 95 Pelicans 93.
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Game On: Pelicans take on Rockets http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/25/game-on-pelicans-take-on-rockets/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/25/game-on-pelicans-take-on-rockets/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 19:41:24 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48868 The New Orleans Pelicans (37-33) takes on the Houston Rockets (47-23), in a game with major playoff implications. The two teams have been heading in very different directions of late. The Houston Rockets have won four of five, moving up to third in the conference, and only 2 ½ games back of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Rockets are also getting back star center Dwight Howard tonight.

The Pelicans have lost three straight, seem to lose a different key rotation player ever day (they don’t even have to play a game to lose a guy), have watched the Oklahoma City Thunder run off a ridiculous streak partially due to the fact that Russell Westbrook isn’t human, (and partially due to the fact that they have played eight of their last nine at home) and now play a streaking team that is getting their star center back.

But the Pelicans have no time to feel sorry for themselves. They have to start winning ball games now. And in the immortal lyrics from a random 30 Rock episode “It’s never too late for now.”

Here are the keys to the game:

  • Turnovers- Over the last five games, the team has turned the ball over an average of 17.4 times a game. If the Pelicans do that tonight, they will lose handily.
  • Defend the numbers- The Pelicans are playing a team that if they could, would only take three pointers, free throws and shots at the rim. The Pelicans can’t let James Harden take over the game at the line (allowing the Rockets to set up their defense) nor can they give up a barrage of 3s or layups. Forcing this team into contested shots inside the arc will be key.
  • Roll-Call- We may have no idea who is playing tonight. Omer Asik is said to have practiced yesterday. But  the Pelicans have lost players in a litany of ways of late. Whoever is available has to contribute. All hands on deck this time of year. Everyone is hurt, everyone is jostling for position. Time to stand your ground and grit out a win. So whether it is Omer “No Ice” Asik eating Howard over some Houston beef, Quincy Pondexter nailing 8 3s, or Norris Cole being the peskiest point guard on the floor since Patrick Beverly is out, the Pelicans need to see players contribute to pull out the win.
  • Useless Cherry-picked Stat of the Day- The Pelicans are 3-0 when facing a team that has a ‘star’ (LeBron James/Kevin Durant) returning from a long injury absence. Maybe it’s a good thing Dwight is coming back.
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Learning the Hard Way: Late Game Defense http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/24/learning-the-hard-way-late-game-defense/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/24/learning-the-hard-way-late-game-defense/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:20:26 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48847 “The thing that I liked about it was our guys felt bad about the execution down the stretch, and about the way we won. And I had to bring them back a little bit. This time of the year, playing playoff teams, it’s going to be a fight. Any way you can get the win, you take it and you move on, try to learn from it. We didn’t have our best stuff tonight, we still won the game. So that’s something we can be proud of, and again, we know we have to learn from it.”

-Monty Williams after the 85-84 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on March 17th.

 

The New Orleans Pelicans have had a tough week. Going 0-3 on a road trip with three Western Conference playoff contenders dealt a big blow to the team’s playoff chances. GM Dell Demps has favored acquiring players in their early to mid-twenties to surround around Anthony Davis. The first wave, was predominantly offensive minded players: Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday (Holiday being a two-way player.) Demps placed a premium on acquiring young players who are already familiar with the everyday rigor of NBA life. But these players are by no means finished products, and it shows on defense. Demps has done a great job of adding defensive minded players this year, in Omer Asik, Norris Cole, Quincy Pondexter, and Dante Cunningham. But the last three players on that list have all been added during the season. With no training camp to work on defensive rotations, there is only so much improvement that can happen mid-season.

After trading away John Salmons, the team doesn’t have a single player over the age of 28 on the roster. These players are young, who can still grow, especially as they get more experience in meaningful games late in the season. It doesn’t have to be as obvious as Eric Gordon’s resurgence post-shoulder injury. Little things get learned and cleared up too. For a team that started the year with only two players having any serious post-season experience in Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson (and both those players promptly getting hurt,) this team has a lot of learning to do. Chemistry isn’t made overnight, and neither is a solid defensive team.

Before the road-trip, we saw some of the advantages of having this team playing meaningful basketball this late in the season.  Little plays that make up a basketball game (the kind that make Shane Battier a coach’s favorite player) end up under the microscope once the season kicks into high-gear. While the Pelicans may not make the playoffs this season, they are playing meaningful games in the ‘second’ season. And meaningful, close games, are often decided by a handful of small plays. And these are the kind of plays that the Pelicans’ young core will learn the most from. If the Pelicans were in the midst of another 34-win season, these plays don’t matter as much, and without getting too meta-, this article probably doesn’t get written.

Against the Denver Nuggets, the Pelicans saw two plays where they poorly communicated on defense, resulting in open threes that doomed them. The first play was on Will Barton’s three with 8 seconds left that sent the game into double overtime.  Gallinari (being covered by Cunningham) hands the ball off to Barton, using his body to pick Barton’s man (Evans.) The move results in a miscommunication, with neither Evans nor Cunningham sticking to Barton, allowing for Barton to have a wide-open look, which he nails.

Barton’s Shot

In double overtime, we see a similar mishap. Gallinari again has the ball, while Barton sets a pick on Jameer Nelson’s man off-the-ball (Cole), before setting a pick on Gallo’s man (Cunningham.) Cole and Evans both stay on Barton after the screen for Nelson, before Cole runs back to Barton and Evans hesitates before closing out on the wide-open Gallo. Cunningham is taken out by Barton’s pick, and Gallo is able to dribble into a wide-open three, nailing the shot and giving the Nuggets a 114-109 lead they would never relinquish.

Gallo’s Dagger

Two days later, the Pelicans found themselves in a similar situation, up 85-84 with 2.4 seconds left in the game, and the Milwaukee Bucks inbounding the ball. Off a screen then curl action, Ersan Ilyasova gets free and has a great look at the jumper. This time, the Pelicans had the basketball gods on their side, and the ball rattled in and out. But the look was open all the same.

Almost happened again…

 

Monty did his best in defending his team, saying “With two seconds on the clock it’s hard to switch, cause you don’t want to give up the slip, so AD couldn’t get through the screen and [Ilyasova] got an open look.” Which is true, but there is no way you want to give that open of a look as time expires. This was a communication breakdown.

 

There is an old coaching adage, that you learn more off of a loss than a win. Similarly, you learn more from a close game, than a blowout. These were two close games the Pelicans will learn from. After the Nuggets loss, Cole sat in the lockerroom and asked for an iPad. He watched a video a couple of times before calling over to Davis and Evans, who both came and looked over his shoulder. They watched and then talked about a play. I don’t know which play it was, but if I had to guess, it was the Gallinari three, that featured Cole and Evans. When Davis stood back up, he said something along the lines of “we learn for next time.” It was a great moment to see, players learning from each other like that, something that doesn’t happen if you’re not in the race for the playoffs. It also explains why Davis seemed so angry after the Bucks win, as if the team had lost, because they made a similar mistake. I wish I had a gif to share where we see these experiences pay off, but this isn’t Eddie, where the giant Russian center takes a charge to clinch the playoffs in the last scene (though how awesome would Asik yelling like Ivan does at the 2:14 mark be?) But these games matter, not just in the standings.

Yesterday, McNamara published an article talking about the Pelicans running it back with the same team next year. Short of some blockbuster trade becoming available (drunk San Antonio trading Kawhi Leonard?) it is safe to assume the Pelicans will have the majority of their rotation back for 2015-2016. The experience of being in the playoff run is going to really help this New Orleans grow into the kind of team that can contend for more than just the playoffs in years to come.

The Pelicans are already a monster executing on offense after timeouts, as Chris Forsberg accidentally showed when posting this tweet heralding head coach Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics:

Bruce Bowen recently said on ESPN that he didn’t think the Pelicans were going to make the playoffs because they “They lack a lot of the veterans that are needed in a situation like this.” But as with most things, Anthony Davis doesn’t seem to care about the conventions, as was displayed by Tom Haberstroh’s tweet:

This is a team that has already grown into an offensive juggernaut, despite all the injuries and changing rotational pieces. Defense almost always takes more time to master than offense. You can see it in teams like New Orleans and Phoenix, two young teams that rank in the top half of the league in offense, yet the bottom half of the league on defense. Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Heat used to say that his team “needed to be on a string,” when on defense. That takes time. Good offense beats good defense, so the defense has to be that much better. With more time, and the acquisition of defensive minded players like Asik, Pondexter, Cunningham, and Cole; the team can start focusing more and more on executing defense (and late game defense) well.

 

No offense to Bowen (or Salmons), but the Pelicans don’t need grizzled playoff veterans added to their rotation so much as they need their young players to get experience in meaningful basketball games, and that’s exactly what has been happening. Let’s enjoy the ride, knowing we’re only moving up.

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In the NO Podcast Ep. 210: Tired of Injuries, lets talk Rainbows http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/23/in-the-no-podcast-ep-210-tired-of-injuries-lets-talk-rainbows/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/23/in-the-no-podcast-ep-210-tired-of-injuries-lets-talk-rainbows/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 04:20:16 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48846 I wish we could talk about Unicorns and Rainbows.  Because, I am sooooo tired of talking about injuries.  So guess what happened!  The team had more injuries!  Frustrating!  Besides just the general rants about that, Michael and I also talk about what the team has accomplished this season, what they should be proud of, and whether the door is now shut, in our books, on playoffs.

The answer may surprise you!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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Should the Pelicans Just Run It Back Next Season? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/23/should-the-pelicans-just-run-it-back-next-season/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/23/should-the-pelicans-just-run-it-back-next-season/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 13:12:41 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48830 There is nothing that gets a fan base more excited than change, or even the possibility of change. Even when a franchise is winning, a tweet, or a message board post about that team possibly acquiring a new player will get more views than any other topic by a wide margin. The thinking is that the right player can turn a bad team into a good one, or a good team into a great one, or even a great one into an elite one. After the Heat won two straight titles, one of the biggest topics on Miami message boards that summer was whether the Heat could add Carmelo the following summer. It’s just what we do, and there is nothing wrong with it.

But it is not always the right thing to do if you are an NBA GM.

The Atlanta Hawks finished a disappointing 38-44 last season under first year Head Coach Mike Budenholzer, and despite pushing the #1 seed in the East to seven games, many of their fans supported wholesale changes. Al Horford had been unable to stay on the court two of the three previous seasons, Paul Milsap and Demarre Carroll were going into the last years of their contract, and Jeff Teague was a guard in his mid-20’s that had shown flashes of greatness but had never been able to be great consistently. The Hawks were a mediocre team by most metrics, finishing with a -0.5 point differential. On top of that, they had little to no cap room and a first rounder in the late teens, so there didn’t seem to be a way to add a major piece to their squad without sending a couple of core guys out.

But a funny thing happened last summer. They did add two major pieces, and no I am not talking about Thabo Sefolosha and Adreian Payne. I am talking about Health and Continuity. Their top 8 guys have missed a total of 44 games combined this season (Horford missed 53 by himself the year before), and several of those have come because of rest due to the fact that Atlanta is so far ahead of everyone else in the Eastern Conference. The other thing they added was continuity. Guys got another training camp together. They bought into the systems and became that much more comfortable with them now that they had another year under their belts.

They went from 18th in offensive rating to 6th. They climbed from 14th to 8th on the defensive side of the ball. And all they did personnel wise was send out Louis Williams and add Thabo Sefolosha. Trust me, this isn’t an article about how great Sefolosha has been for the Hawks, and how he turned them around. In fact, he has been pretty bad this year and hasn’t been a difference maker in any single aspect. He has played the fewest games of all their rotation players (45), is shooting terribly from deep (29%), and has continued his decline defensively as well. He is not the reason Atlanta is better; Health and Continuity are.

The Pelicans Copying the Hawks Model

The Pels have a quasi All-Star player who hasn’t been able to stay on the court recently (Jrue Holiday), another mid-20’s guard who runs hot and cold (Tyreke Evans), and a couple of quality players about to enter the last season of their contract too (Gordon and Ryan Anderson). They have a handful of guys in their rotation who have only been through one training camp with Monty (Asik, Ajinca, Babbitt, Pondexter) and a few more who haven’t been through any (Cunningham, Cole). And forget about training camp, the Pelicans players who are considered the core of this franchise haven’t even been able to play together when the games actually count.

Dell Demps put the ‘Finishing Five’ together two summers ago. Guess how many games they have played since coming together. No, seriously, go ahead and guess……. TWENTY-FIVE! Twenty freaking five. Guess how many minutes? 189. To put that in perspective, the Cleveland Cavs main lineup (Kyrie-JR Smith-Lebron-Love-Mozgov) have played 382 minutes together this year. Oh yeah, and two of those guys were added in January. In two months, the Cavs main lineup has played together twice as much as the Pelicans have over the last two years.

Looking at other core members, Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis have only been on the court together for 1800 minutes these past two years. Again, to put that in perspective, Lillard and Aldridge played together for nearly 2400 minutes in the 2013-14 season alone. The Jrue-AD-Asik three-man trio, which figures to be our defensive foundation moving forward, has played less than 600 minutes together. I can go on and on with these depressing lineup statistics, but you get the point. This Pelicans team is nearly impossible to evaluate, because we have never really seen this Pelicans team – at least not the one that Dell Demps built. If you actually look at the team Demps built, you will see something very impressive. The starting lineup he put together this year are outscoring opponents by 14.5 points per 100 possessions. The problem? They have only played together for 169 minutes this year, which is 22% of the amount of time Golden State’s starting lineup has spent together this season.

To borrow from an old adage one of my professors used to use, the Pelicans are putting the bicycle together as they ride it. They are constantly swapping parts as they go along because they have been forced to due to the dire circumstance. Do you think Dell Demps intended for Jimmer Fredette and Austin Rivers to get more minutes than Jrue Holiday this season? Of course not, but they have. In fact, I am sure he thought that Jrue, Tyreke, and Gordon would eat up almost all of the guard minutes, but over 2000 minutes have gone to Jimmer, Austin, Elliot Williams, Gal Mekel, Russ Smith, Norris Cole, Toney Douglas,and Nate Wolters.

The Hawks had to do some similar things last year when Horford went out, and as a result they found some rotation players in Pero Antic and Mike Scott that might not otherwise got the minutes. Having Jrue Holiday and others go down has given opportunities to Norris Cole, Dante Cunningham, Alexis Ajinca, and Luke Babbitt that they might not otherwise have had, and perhaps they (and the team) will be better off for it next season. Imagine the depth that the Pelicans could have next season if they get everyone healthy, and everyone goes through another training camp together. The Hawks are 12-13 guys deep with players who know their system and fit into it. The Pelicans can get there too if they bring this roster back.

The Logistics

If the Pelicans want to bring everyone back, they can. They have Omer Asik’s Bird Rights, they have Early Bird Rights on Alexis Ajinca and Luke Babbitt, they can make Norris Cole a restricted free agent, and they would have the Mid-Level Exception or the Bi-Annual Exception to re-sign Dante Cunningham if they wanted to. Everybody else on the roster is under contract, assuming Eric Gordon opts-in, which he is likely to do. So, New Orleans can bring everybody back without much fear of going into the luxury tax, which is projected to be around $81 million. And if they get close, not all of those guys are necessary. If you assume that Ryan Anderson will be 100% next year, then there is only room for one between Babbitt and Cunningham, though as we have seen, having depth is always nice.

The Alternatives

As I have written before, the Pelicans have far more flexibility this summer than it looks like they have on paper. Eric Gordon has played well enough this season to be an intriguing option for numerous teams. And if it comes to it, the Pelicans can always stretch him. Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson could easily be moved too if the Pelicans just want to dump their contracts, and they can always choose to let all their free agents walk if they prefer that route. Really, they can get this roster down to Anthony Davis, Quincy Pondexter, and Jrue Holiday if they wanted to and that would give them about $45 million in cap room to fill in around those guys.

But a change that drastic is probably unlikely, especially if Dell Demps is at the helm. But if he is let go, then anything is possible depending on the philosophies of the new GM. Many of the top free agents are likely to stay (Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordon), or are restricted (Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler), or would only leave for a bigger market in all likelihood (Kevin Love). Having a ton of cap room sounds good in theory, until you realize that it will likely just result in overpaying middle tier free agents to get them to leave. And then, you just have the same issue of having to fit all of these pieces together that have no experience playing with one another. If you are getting a massive upgrade in talent, sure, go ahead and hurt the continuity. But if the talent is relatively the same, what’s the point?

The Pelicans Should Give It One More Go

Monty Williams is going into the last year of his contract. So is Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. The cap is going to take a huge leap in 2016. Anthony Davis is still evolving into the player he will become as he enters his prime and we don’t fully know what that will look like. Will he add Dirk (range) or Duncan (low post) to his game? Maybe both? Add all that to the fact that you don’t even really know what you have with this core except for some really great numbers in a small sample size, and why not run it back?

If the Pelicans are put into certain situations where it kills their flexibility in future years to run it back next year – i.e. Norris Cole gets a 4 year offer we have to match or Ajinca demands 3-4 years at a $5 mil per year salary, then maybe you let a few pieces go, but those types of things aren’t likely. The most likely outcome is that the league doesn’t see our fringe pieces as incredibly valuable, or at least not as valuable as they are to the Pelicans. They fit with the culture and are starting to know the systems. Now, all they need is a little more time on the court with the same teammates night in and night out. When the Pels went from a 39 win team in 2007 to a 56 win in 2008, all they added was Morris Peterson, Health, and Continuity. Similar changes in Atlanta, and now they are the 2nd best team in the league, on pace to add 20+ wins despite minor roster turnover.

Sign me up for that.

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Pelicans Give it All, Fall Short to Clippers http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/22/pelicans-give-it-all-fall-short-to-clippers/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/22/pelicans-give-it-all-fall-short-to-clippers/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 21:56:47 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48839 Monty Pregame Thoughts

“Since I have been here, we have shown that we can beat them here.. but it’s not an easy task.”

The news that Anthony Davis would play in this game drastically changed the Pelicans’ fortunes.  It’s not that Asik and Tyreke aren’t valuable to this team — it’s simply that Anthony Davis is always a trump card. And that was apparent early. Poor entry pass to Blake Griffin, Davis steal. Davis face up, splash. Davis face up 2.0, splash. It did not take long for Davis to make his impact on the game. But he wasn’t the only one, as the Pelicans got off to a blazing hot start.  Things were good early on for the Pels, not so much for the Clips.

But the Clips got it together — Griffin got a couple of transition buckets, Redick pump-faked Quincy Pondexter into oblivion after receiving a kick out for 3 in transition, and then nailed a pull up after side stepping. DeAndre Jordan had a vicious putback dunk. Davis lost track of Griffin, who caught the ball under the goal, scored a bucket, and earned the foul. Before the 1st quarter ended, the Clipers closed a gap that was both a product of Davis’s amazing impact and some very fortunate shots by the Pelicans.

The beginning of the 2nd quarter offered a great opportunity to build a solid cushion before the Clippers starters came back in.  And by the looks of things, they were going to, as they shot out to a 5 or 6 point lead.  But they let the Clippers back in and essentially wound up holding the score even. Not ideal, but there are worse things.

Speaking of worse things, the amount of unforced turnovers that the Pelicans commit sometimes can be astounding. Passes off people’s legs, bounce passes directed to people’s ankles. These kind of turnovers clustered together create some 4 to 6 point swings that wind up determining games.

Just as the Clippers seemed to be pulling away, Eric Gordon stepped up and drilled back to back 3s. Ajinca cleaned up a miss with a follow up jam and then AD soared for an OReb, made his shot, and Cunningham got fouled simultaneously. DC would miss his free throw but the Pels went into the half up 3.

The Pelicans came screaming out of the locker room, once again led by the fantastic play of Anthony Davis, who extended his perfection from the field. But the Clippers received some questionable calls and immediately carved into the lead the Pelicans built at the beginning of the half.  Sense a theme here?

The Pelicans would go down 8 after a few horrible possessions where they burned the shot clock without anything resembling a threat.  And then Davis/Cole came back in and things changed — perhaps somewhat attributable to the Clippers’ horrible bench.

The Final Stretch

Man, i hate complaining about officiating, but there were some horrible calls tonight, and a huge one when an AD putback dunk was wiped away because it was “in the cylinder.” The points were taken away, Redick nailed a midrange curl, and then sunk a free throw after a Monty tech. Pretty big swing.

Blake Griffin had a few key plays down the stretch.  One was on a poor double-team where he swung the ball to Redick on the opposite wing.  He also scored on two switches — one with Cole and one with QPon. QPon actually did very well to keep him in front and not get backed down quickly, but there was no help, and alas, Griffin scored.  It’s tough, because Griffin is a great passer and you have to double him well given that ability + DJ, Paul, and Redick.

It was curious how little Anthony Davis touched the ball given how hot he was and that he is, you know, one of the best players in the world. But the Pelicans ball-handlers simply couldn’t get him the ball and few of them actually mounted a threat in the 2nd half.  The shooting cooled off and the Pelicans didn’t find other ways to score. Couple that with some of the officiating blunders and you have a recipe for a loss.  I don’t mean to blame it on officiating, because the Pelicans didn’t outplay the Clips — but there were some mistakes at key times and it just didn’t help matters.

Oklahoma City won today, which may have put the kibosh on the Pelican playoff hopes.  But hopefully the Pelicans can get some of their players healthy and make a late charge towards a successful season (which doesn’t require a playoff berth).  Things could be a lot worse given the untimely injuries that the Pelicans sustained this season.

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Game On: Pelicans at Clippers http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/22/game-on-pelicans-at-clippers/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/22/game-on-pelicans-at-clippers/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 15:24:46 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48829 Once again, the Pelicans are limping into a matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers.

I was out all day yesterday and have not heard any news regarding whether Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, or Tyreke Evans will play.  Evans played only the first 3.5 minutes of the second half versus the Warriors and was visibly hampered by his ankle injury.

****UPDATE: AD is listed as probable and Asik/Evans are questionable for tonight.  Getting AD back significantly improves our chances for tonight’s game

The Pelicans are entering the home stretch of the season 2 games behind a similarly battered Oklahoma City and have a tough test vs. the Clippers, who have Blake Griffin back and will be fighting for seeding over these last game.

To be brutally honest, unless AD plays, there is a very small margin for error in today’s game.  The Clippers are simply better and are also playing at home.  However, the Pelicans have stolen 2 games against the Clippers these last 2 years playing very short-handed.  What is unlikely is not impossible, so here are some keys to tonight’s game.

  1. Limit Blake Griffin in transition.  When you are playing against a more talented team, you cannot afford to allow easy points.  Griffin runs the floor as well as any big in the league and will punish you if you don’t get numbers back early.  He’s excellent at getting wide and running with CP3 and also sprints/seals for early position against guards and smaller players.
  2. For the bench to outplay the Clippers’ bench.  One thing that the Clippers do not have is depth, particularly with Jamal Crawford out injured.  You can make up ground when Chris Paul is off the floor.  This is of utmost importance — because realistically speaking, their starting unit will probably be > +10 tonight.
  3. Let CP3 beat you with his midrange J.  Our perimeter defense is absolutely awful, and Chris Paul will carve it up 95 nights out of 100.  He is amazing from midrange, but you let him have it because leaving players open to help on Chris Paul is 99% going to wind up with a dunk or open 3.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture — the odds are simply stacked against us unless some of AD, Asik, and co. wind up taking the floor.  Beat up on their bench, get back in transition, and hope that Alexis Ajinca can do some work in the post or one of our shooters gets hot.  We have beaten them short-handed before, it is just not likely.

Let’s go Pels!

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The Horror: Pelicans Blown Out in Oakland http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/21/the-horror-pelicans-blown-out-in-oakland/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/21/the-horror-pelicans-blown-out-in-oakland/#comments Sat, 21 Mar 2015 08:21:17 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48827 The New Orleans Pelicans were blown out by the Golden State Warriors in Oakland last night. With a starting lineup’s worth of players missing (Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik all out, and Tyreke Evans’ pulling a walking dead for 15 minutes), the Pelicans look disjointed, and saw the Warriors pull away in the second half. Without Asik to protect the rim, the Pelicans gave up 12 offensive rebounds and 58 points in the paint. Without a ball-handler to get New Orleans into their sets, the Pels saw themselves give up 21 points off 20 turnovers. The Warriors outran the Pels too, scoring 29 fastbreak points to the Pelicans’ 5.

 

But this is not a game where you focus on the extent of that bad play. On the second night of a road back-to-back where New Orleans came into the set down two of their best six players, and then lost three more throughout the course of the two games, the Pelicans weren’t going to pull out a Cinderella story worthy of March Madness. It is better to focus on the good things that came out of the game. Jeff Withey looked great, being very active and even nailing a midrange jumper that he has been working on before every home game. Alexis Ajinca also looked solid after having a couple of ghost games. The team as a whole shot well, making 11 of their 22 shots from beyond the arc. And even in garbage time, the Pelicans were still moving the ball around, a good sign showing that the team is getting more and more comfortable with each other.

This is not a game that you’ll want to relive, you won’t be holding your breath waiting for the NBA League Pass to archive it. But some good things may come out of this game, and hopefully the Pelicans can get it right before Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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Game On: Pelicans Take On Warriors http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/20/game-on-pelicans-take-on-warriors/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/20/game-on-pelicans-take-on-warriors/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:08:55 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48825 The New Orleans Pelicans’ fell a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder after their 74-72 loss against the Phoenix Suns. The score, which is eerily reminiscent of games played in the 90s or Memphis, is not the most encouraging as the Pelicans head to Oakland to play the best offense in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors have an Offensive efficiency of 109.2. They also lead the league in assists per game, have the best record in the NBA (and just beat the Atlanta Hawks, the second place team in the league, convincingly.) The Warriors also lead the league in True Shooting Percentage and pace.

The Pelicans will play the Warriors twice in the final month of the season. In the prior two matchups, the Warriors scored nearly at will, blowing out the Pelicans 112-85 in Oakland on December 4th, and then edging out the Pelicans ten days later in overtime 128-122. With or without Anthony Davis (who is questionable at the time of this writing) the Pelicans need to have better results in order to win these games and stay in the playoff race.

Here are the keys to the game:

Rebounding- One thing the Pelicans are better than the Warriors at is rebounding. The Pelicans’ rank fifth in rebounding rate, while the Warriors ran 17th. In order for the Pelicans to win, they will need to limit the Warriors second chances point opportunities, and make the most out of their own possessions. When playing an elite team, you have to implement your will and game in order to advance. One thing the Pelicans can count on, is rebounding.

Pace- These two teams are polar opposite when it comes to pace. While a case could be made that the Pels should play faster when healthy, the Pelicans are down at least two, if not three, key players today, and playing the fastest and deepest team in the league. Slowing the game down and shortening the court is pivotal for the Pelicans to stay in the game.

Win the Turnover Battle- This will almost always be a key for the Pelicans. In the December 4th massacre, the Pelicans had 17 turnovers and gave up 26 points to the Warriors nine turnovers and eight points.  In the overtime game, the Pelicans forced the Warriors into 20 turnovers, and got 23 points off of them. Turnovers will be key. Tom Haberstroh wrote on ESPN how Steph Curry had more pull-up threes than any other team has this year. If it becomes that kind of game, the Pelicans will be looking to Sunday’s game hoping to win at least one game on this road trip.

Lastly- Drill safely guys. We are injured enough.

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A few members of the Pelicans lose to the Suns http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/19/a-few-members-of-the-pelicans-lose-to-the-suns/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/19/a-few-members-of-the-pelicans-lose-to-the-suns/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 04:46:05 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48821 I don’t know what to say.  The Pelicans were missing Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson.  They got 18 minutes from Asik before he got hurt himself – and, by the way, he was murdering the Suns on the glass and defensively when he could play.  Tyreke Evans came up gimpy with a rolled ankle that kept him from ever hitting second gear on any of his drives – which prevented him from being anything even close to effective in the second half.

Oh, and Anthony Davis hurt himself in shootaround.  Right.  Shootaround.

Fuck you, basketball Gods.  Yeah.  All of you.

  • How do the Suns only manage to win by 2 in this game?  I mean, c’mon.  The Pelicans rolled out a starting lineup with 3 shooting guards and a tweener power forward and center combo that between them are less offensive than the sentence right before this bullet.
  • I want to say the reason tje game was close was because the Pelicans gutted it out – and the guys who played tonight did play damn hard all night long – but the Suns did also miss all kinds of open looks early in the game before they seemed to almost give up themselves like they couldn’t believe what was happening either.
  • The Pelicans really tried to ride the A-train tonight, but Ajinca couldn’t get anything consistent going and finished with 10 points on 12 shots.
  • Bledsoe looked awful tonight.  So bad, I would assume he had the flu, or forgot to wake up, or he had a robot created to impersonate him while he watched Kentucky play in the tournament.  Oh, and that Robot sucked at basketball.  Something, because Cole flat embarassed him all night defensively and even when Bledsoe wasn’t against Cole, he couldn’t get a pick and roll started to save his life.  It was terrible.  Oh – and his own coach clearly didn’t think he was much of a defender because Tucker got Evans to start, when Evans hurt himself, they put Tucker on Gordon and switched Bledsoe to Evans.  Evans promptly had his only three good drives of the game post-ankle rolling.  Time-out.  Tucker is back on Evans.
  • It’s hard to watch a team that is relying on Quincy Pondexter and Luke Babbitt as their secondary perimeter attacker.  There were long stretches where this was the case.  Not pretty.
  • If Asik hadn’t hurt himself, I’m pretty sure he would have had 8,322 rebounds in that game.
  • Archie Goodwin and Gerald Green have so little court awareness that I think they probably combine to create little court awareness black holes that threaten to destroy the Suns every game.

Enough.  I don’t know who will play tomorrow against Golden State.  At this point, it won’t be pretty, that’s for damn sure.

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Game On: Pelicans @ Suns http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/19/game-on-pelicans-suns-2/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/19/game-on-pelicans-suns-2/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 18:11:38 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48819 In recent days, Phoenix has been counted out in the Western Conference playoff chase – with The Pelicans and OKC being the teams looked at as most likely to snag that last spot. That’s not, however, going to make this game any easier – as the Suns haven’t waved the white flag, and the Pelicans are going to be in their house.

If the Pelicans had been playing the Suns six weeks ago, I would have been much more pessimistic about this game. The Pelicans are terrible at guarding pick and rolls and, minus Jrue, guards with masterful dribbles that let them get wherever they want. This, happily is not that Suns team – which sported Goran Dragic’s ability to get anywhere on the court and Thomas’ ability to score off the dribble from anywhere.

This team probably just has Bledsoe, since Brandon Knight is questionable with an ankle injury. (As is Len) Bledsoe is athletic and a defensive freak, but I’m not terrified of him taking the team apart in a lot of ways. Pretty much just direct attacks at the rim. Scary. Not terrifying.

Keys to the Game

  • Eat Glass.  The Suns are pretty terrible on the boards.  Case in point, PJ Tucker is slightly above average as a rebounder – and has more boards than the Suns starting center and almost the same number (in fewer minutes) than their starting power forward.  Have Evans, Q-Pon or Cunningham box out Tucker and Asik and Davis are going to rebound the Suns into the ground.
  • Run back on defense.  Look – I’ve long since given up on this team fastbreaking anywhere.  They don’t have the personnel to generate steals, their guards don’t like to turn on the jets in transition (unless Evans is feeling frisky) and there isn’t a ton of speed on the wing or up front besides Davis.  But the Suns continue to attack quickly after made baskets and misses alike.  They are good at generating turnovers.  If the Pelicans are lazy in getting back in transition for stretches of this game – which they do every so often – they are done.
  • Don’t expect many free throws.  Generally, the Suns are good at not fouling opponents for free throws.  The Pelicans have to stick what shots they get, because they aren’t very likely to get bailed out.

Enjoy the Game!

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Friends of BSS Roundtable: Playoffs, Playoffs, Playoffs http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/18/friends-of-bss-roundtable-playoffs-playoffs-playoffs/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/18/friends-of-bss-roundtable-playoffs-playoffs-playoffs/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 00:51:02 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48814 As the NBA season winds down to a close and our season-standings-website-of-choice gets the refresh button pummeled repeatedly because we like how we look in the Top 8, we decided to open up the conversation to some friends of Bourbon Street Shots. Because it’s been way too long since we’ve been in the postseason and because we deserve it. Here’s some local super fans of the comedian and local business owner variety to answer some “burning” questions.

If the Pelicans Make the Playoffs I Will…

Derek Dupuy (sketch comedy writer from Stupid Time Machine): Have the kind of deep satisfaction that only a suburban father out to dinner at a Ryan’s Steakhouse could have. Finally! This team can evolve into something special down the line and a playoff appearance is a great step along the journey. I will also invest a cool $75 in new Pelicans merchandise. That’s right, folks.  Look forward to seeing this guy in a long sleeve with a new hat.  See ya later, Stacey Augmon Hornets jersey. Plastic Man!

Zack DiBenedetto (owner, Big Easy Crossfit):  I would start by fixing my favorite meal, Chef Boyardee Ravioli, in my favorite Anthony Davis unibrow edition soup bowl.  Then I would run to my front yard screaming the noise pelicans make (probably sounding more like a pterodactyl) and throw copious amounts of confetti onto my bushes.  Bushes shaped like AD and the Larry O’Brien Trophy, that is. As I stare at Davis and the Larry O’Brien covered in sweet success it dawns on me – what am I doing with this much confetti at my house?

Bob Murrell (comedian,DrunkToons): Feel like a high schooler again. I remember the first playoff series in NOLA during high school. Soon, I’ll start wearing JNCOs and my Nokia phone will only hold 50 contacts on it.


If the Pelicans Do Not Make the Playoffs I Will…

Derek Dupuy:  Scream that this never would have happened had we gotten the Timberwolves in 94’!  Then I’ll cool down and place the blame on Monty for early season bizarre substitutions and lineup changes.  Perhaps I’ll take Eric Gordon to task, ask what-ifs about Jrue Holiday, and wish AD had taken 20% more shots.  Then I’ll get back to my customized game of NBA Jam where I play with Anthony Davis and Dan Dickau.

Zack DiBenedetto:  I would cry like a 13 year old girl who fell in a mud puddle on the night of homecoming. In between crying spells there will be plenty of cursing the fates for letting Jrue and Anderson get hurt.  I’ll start a petition called, “Seven Feet Smeven Feet” to express how major of a disappointment Asik was.  To finish this rampage I will have no choice, but to dominate on NBA Live 14’ with the Pelicans. Asik on my bench, of course.

Bob Murrell: Tweet at Commish Silver everyday until the playoffs eliminate conferences. Either that, or move us to the Eastern Conference.

What would you give up to see the Pelicans make the Playoffs?

Derek Dupuy:  My first unborn child who, coincidentally, is to be named Eric Gordon.  Eric as a tribute to hockey legend Eric Lindros who inspires me daily and Gordon from Sesame Street who entertains me daily and teaches me things daily. Besides, the Pels in the playoffs gains them needed experience and helps them become a contender in the future and will give New Orleans so much joy for years to come. My first born child will give nothing back to New Orleans and will break me as a human man.

Zack DiBenedetto:  I would give up the right to stand up and pee like a man.  I would sit every time I had to pee.  Do you know how demoralizing that can be to a man? Geez, I feel the estrogen rising.  So basically, I’m saying I would give up my balls to science.

Bob Murrell: The hair on the sides of my head. Have you seen Jeff Withey’s haircut? I would sport that if it meant sweet, sweet postseason basketball.

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Moleskin Moments: Pels Sneak Past Bucks http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/17/moleskin-moments-pels-sneak-past-bucks/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/17/moleskin-moments-pels-sneak-past-bucks/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 03:27:58 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48812 1Q

  • 9:16. @PelicansNBA came out strong, making jumpshots and taking advantage of the offensive glass. 7-0 Pels
  • 8:56 Lots of dribble hand-offs from the bigs to guards early. Momentum carrying them out of the traps that over-aggressive Bucks. #Pelicans 10-0
  • All it takes is one shooter to start making shots for this offense to open up (Thank you Quincy Pondexter)
  • 2:32 Lots of great looks for the @PelicansNBA to start this game. Great way to keep a team out if the open court is to make shots.
  • Great Quarter, must keep the ball moving in the second quarter. 32-21

2Q

  • Tough start to the second quarter.
  • 8:45 Tough start to the second quarter for the @PelicansNBA. Ball not moving as much. Jumpers not falling. 32-29
  • 8:45 Foot off the gas moment, let’s see how they come out of the timeout.
  • 6:26 Watching Alexis Ajinca post up is not the recipe to cure these offensive funk.
  • 5:40- Watching Eric Gordon run a pick and roll trying to set up Norris Cole for a baseline 3 feels backwards to me.
  • 4:02 Beautiful drive and dish by Gordon to Omer Asik. Need to see more of that against a team this long. #Pelicans.

Half Time

  • Schizophrenic half for the Pelicans. Need to clean that up in the second half if they want to win this one.
  • 14 points in the paint in the second quarter.

3Q

  • 9:16 Asik’s a monster. Got to love the problems he presents for other teams on both sides of the ball. #Pelicans
  • 5:12 Asik’s third straight double-double. #Pelicans.
  • 3:13 Bucks in the penalty. Have to keep attacking. Allows our defense to set up. #Pelicans
  • 1:40 Ajinca scores, Ajinca scores! #BenchPointsDoHappen

4Q

  • Heading into the 4th, wondering what happened to all those sets w/ bigs handing it off to our perimeter players @PelicansNBA had in the 1Q.
  • Both teams shooting under 40% (Both shot over 52% in the last game.)
  • @PelicansNBA needs to hang on with Anthony Davis getting looked at by trainers. Don’t want to blow the lead and have him make a rash decision
  • 8:58 Great play by Cole on that. Very aware. Vet move. #Pelicans
  • 8:58 AD pulling a Clark Kent, in and out of the locker room in a blink. #Pelicans
  • 6:17 So.Many.Jumpers. Pels need to go inside then out.
  • 5:34- Two quarters this game where the pelicans have score three points after 6+minutes. Not the kind of consistency we’re looking for.
  • 3:12 Gonna keep giving Asik love. Nice rebound and pass to AD. Better free throw shooter and maybe gets him going
  • 2:16 Tie game. Let’s see how the @PelicansNBA react after Sunday’s heartbreaker.
  • 1:56 Got a three by Gordon on that last Off. play. But spacing was horrible to start that possession. Pels need faster, better cuts when strong-side is flooded and Davis has the ball.
  • 9.7 Tough possession there. Kinda wish they didn’t take so long to start their action on Offense. Bucks length has been an issue all.
  • 2.5 Great deflection. #NoIceAsikIsAGod
  • I don’t know what happened that resulted in the Bucks getting the ball, but I’m pretty sure that ball rattled in and out of the rim longer than it took the ball from Caddyshack to drop. (The refs awarded Khris Middleton with calling a timeout before the ball was deflected out of bounds.)
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Game On: Pelicans v. Bucks http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/17/game-on-pelicans-v-bucks/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/17/game-on-pelicans-v-bucks/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 08:14:15 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48810 With a win tonight, the New Orleans Pelicans can reclaim the eighth and final playoff spot as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pelicans hope to rebound from their 118-111 double overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.  The Pelicans recently beat the Bucks 114-103, behind Anthony Davis’ 43 points (on 17-23 shooting.) Despite Sunday’s loss, the Pelicans enter the game having won nine of their last twelve, while the Bucks enter having lost nine of their last twelve. The Bucks have been scoring a lowly 91.2 points during that span.

 

Here are our keys to the game:

  • Turnovers- The Pelicans had 19 turnovers turn to 27 points against the Denver Nuggets. The Bucks are a long team and like getting into the passing lanes. The Pelicans can’t give up any easy points to a Bucks team struggling to score. The last matchup between the two resulted in 17 fastbreak points for the Bucks.
  • Rebounding- The Bucks are not a good rebounding team. The Pelicans have to take advantage and keep them to one shot per possession and get some second chance points. The Bucks interior should not be able to keep Anthony Davis/Omer Asik/Alexis Ajinca off the boards.
  • Fear the Passing Deer- The Bucks are one of the best passing teams in the league, following suit of their coach. The Pelicans had some issues with the Nuggets ball-movement, and miscommunicating on some key switches late. Let’s see if the Pelicans can readjust and correct that in order to keep the Bucks in check.
  • Giannis- I don’t know what the Pels should do against him, but let’s hope he doesn’t go off.
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In the NO Podcast Ep 209: Playoff Dogfight http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/16/in-the-no-podcast-ep-209-playoff-dogfight/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/03/16/in-the-no-podcast-ep-209-playoff-dogfight/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 04:49:51 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=48807 It may be stupid, but Michael and I can’t help talking about the fight for the playoffs. We talk the games against Denver and Brooklyn, but also talk streaking Utah, the Serge Ibaka injury, the three guards the Pels have, and even talk a little about potential playoff matchups. Getting ahead of ourselves? Yes! So what!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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