How It Starts, How It Ends

Published: October 6, 2013

Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away

— Linkin Park, In the End

New Orleans Pelicans News

The New Orleans Pelicans had their first preseason game last night and defeated the Houston Rockets, 116-115.

Before that, the team opened training camp, holding two practices per day, one at 10, one at 5. The earlier practice is more on-the-court, the later more teaching off-the-court. During the week, it was announced that Eric Gordon would be held out of games for two weeks due to lack of conditioning since he was just cleared after this ankle surgery in May. He will be “more than ready” for opening night, per Monty. Monty went on to discuss that discussions need to be had about his thoughts about the pace of Gordon’s return to action compared to Eric’s thoughts, the doctors’ thoughts, etc. Gordon is practicing, but practiced less than others.

Before that was Media Day. Joe, Jake, and Andrew covered the event, and Chris dedicated his Trew to the Game this week to it. The site’s writers also answered some questions that arose from the event.

The Pelicans’ local broadcast schedule was released this week. 75 games are covered locally, with some of the others picked up by national outlets. Nearly all the games are on the radio, but some conflict with Saints broadcasts keep some from being on the air. Also, there is no preseason coverage planned for TV, and the Hawks game in Biloxi is not on the radio.

The Monty Williams show launched this week on 105.3. It’s a half-hour weekly show, each Thursday at 8 p.m.

The injury report is longer than fans would hope after one game. Eric Gordon is sitting out with a conditioning issue. Ryan Anderson was also held out of the first game for undisclosed reasons. Brian Roberts rolled his ankle in practice earlier in the week. Then, Tyreke Evans hurt his ankle in the second quarter of the Rockets game. X-rays showed no break, and an MRI is scheduled. He’s complained about the pain on twitter, so it stands to reason that he’ll miss the game Monday. Prior to the game, the Pelicans waived Rodney Carney.

Speaking of, the Pelicans face Dallas Monday night at 7:30 (I hate the Mavericks), Wednesday night at 6 against Orlando, and Sunday afternoon at 1 in Biloxi against the Hawks. All times CDT (UTC -5).

Around Bourbon Street Shots

In addition to the episode of In the NO with Kevin Pelton, Larry Coon joined to discuss various cap issues specific to the Pelicans and some larger, league-wide issues.

Ryan treated us to an article about Holiday’s turnover problem in Philadelphia. Then, the two Michaels contributed articles. Pellissier discussed NBA Rank, while McNamara tried to predict Monty’s rotations.

`Voices’ of the People

16 teams have 2 players ranked in the top 50. 14 of those teams made the playoffs. The only 2 teams that missed were the Twolves (Klove hurt) and the Hornets (Gordon hurt). Pretty remarkable considering that there are only 16 slots total. 7 for 7 in the east and 7 for 9 in the west.


Not too worried about Jrue. He was torching Lin in the first half but just struggled to finish at the basket but thats what preseason is for. In the second half he went up against Patrick Beverly who really gives point guards fits. We saw it last year against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. In a regular season game we would’ve had either Evans or Gordon to help carry some of the load and keep Beverly honost because there is no we he can handle Jrue in the post.

On another note, I thought the rest of our team looked fantastic considering it was our first preseason game. Harden really struggled when matched up against Rivers which is a very good sign. Looked like Rivers shooting percentage was a direct result of Dwight Howards presence in the post. When Howard was out Rivers basically got whatever he wanted. Cant wait to see our second unit in action. All of them looked great yesterday with the exception of Anderson obviously. Would like to see Evans get back sooner then later because its clear we still have alot more gelling to do. Davis is a star plain and simple.

Flock Up!


I think Jason Smith will get more minutes. He is a skilled offensive and defensive player and gives a boost at “attitude” when he is in there. I also think that Rivers will get more minutes in the long run just because he is too improved to stay on the bench. His defense is much improved and nothing makes Monty smile like someone willing to hustle on defense.


42 Sense

Pace has been a topic of interest among Pelicans fans since Monty Williams was hired, as his team has been at the bottom of the NBA since his arrival (they are the only team to be in the bottom 2 over that 3-year span). There are two ways pace can be interpreted, and both are a concern. One is the footspeed kind of pace, the kind that you need for fast breaks and that sort of thing. The other is about the number of possessions the team has in a typical game. This is tied to how much clock is used per possession, which can be influenced by footspeed, but is affected by other factors. Defensive rebounds tend to increase pace, offensive rebounds tend to decrease it. Steals increase it, making shots decrease it.

The following is about the latter.

Those who focus on efficiencies tend to see the game as follows: The final score can be predicted readily by determining the number of points per possession for each team and multiplying those by the expected number of possession. The actual final score should be close to this unless extraordinary events take place.

While this reductionist philosophy is abhorrent to some, it should give any basketball fan a lens (one of many) through which the game can be viewed. Efficiencies get the lion’s share of attention from analysts for a number of reasons. One of them is that the number of possessions is about the same for each team in each game. The `about’ is what is of interest here.

To start the game, there is a tip-off, and one team gains possession. After that, the teams trade possessions until the quarter ends. If the team that `won’ the tip had the ball last, they ended up with one possession more than their opponents. If not, the number of possessions was the same.

Then, in subsequent quarters, teams bring the ball into play depending on who won the tip and which quarter it is. The formula guarantees that each team starts off two quarters with the ball: one team starts 1 and 4, the other team starts 2 and 3. Thus, each team has 2 chances to have an additional possession in the quarter compared to their opponent. Left to random chance, each team has about the same number of possessions in the game, but the maximum difference is 2.

This maximum difference is achieved when the same team has the ball on the last possession of each quarter. When teams scheme have the ball last, it is typically in the 2-for-1 guise where a team can get a shot off, then after the opposing team has just one possession, the original team has time to run an effective play while exhausting the clock. This 2-for-1 tactic is simply a localized view of this more global strategy.

The overall payoff of those two additional possessions can vary, but one can expect about 2 points. This may seem like a small reward for so much effort, but it is actually a big deal. Examination of historical records indicates that point differential is a strong predictor of wins and titles, and that a change in point differential (for a normal NBA team) is worth about 2.5 wins. Last season, the Hornets lost one game by 1, one game by 2, and made it to overtime 4 times, winning only once. Not that the world works this way, but a 2 point differential applied across the board would have turned the other 3 overtime games into wins along with the one point loss. The 2 point loss would have resulted in overtime. This is not to say that is how the games would have proceeded, but it provides some grounding that says the statistical result is not just mathematical fluff.

The kinds of possessions you end quarters with are important, how teams react to you, and more all factor in, but there is no drawback to getting additional possessions over your opponent, not just getting more and giving your opponent more in the process.

Last night against the Rockets, the Pelicans got the ball with 3s left at the end of the first quarter, resulting in a 25ft heave by Evans, a poor career 3pt shooter who was merely below average last season in Sacramento. At the end of the second, the Pelicans had 1s left that turned into a 32ft prayer by Rivers. To close the third, the Pelicans had a miss after starting their possession with 30s left, then Davis missed his close shot after the offensive rebound, and Casspi ended the quarter with a make. At the close of the game, the Pelicans were being fouled pretty systematically, but the Rockets still had the ball with time to run an effective play to score 3 points. They failed, but they had the chance.

As you can see, the Rockets had the last quality possession in each quarter, and that is one reason they were so close at the end even while sitting Howard and Harden through the fourth. I contend this is no accident. I contend this is a game-within-the-game, and game winners often win that subgame.

The Pelicans need to take note and do a better job of at least evening the playing field, if not tilting it in their favor, by those extra possessions that are just sitting there for the taking.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.