Moleskin Moments (And the Morning After): Game 2

Notes of the New Orleans Pelicans game 2 defeat against the Golden State Warriors, where we saw a lot of things get better, but not enough for the win.

  • Omer Asik started the game. Many at Tracey’s were wondering if Ryan Anderson should start. I even heard some “Alexis Ajinca starting” talk being brought up again. But for reasons both complex (for another day) and not so complex (dance with the girl you brought to the ball) Asik started. Also going against what Reggie Miller says tends to be a solid philosophy as well.
  • Asik had a tough first half. Besides the stitches, he was indecisive with the ball, never caught the ball cutting with space, and didn’t have a huge impact on the game defensively or offensively.  But in the second half, Asik did a fine job defensive, set strong picks, had a couple of nice dishes, and cleaned up on the boards and defense a bit. It wasn’t his finest game by any means, but Asik was able to make a difference. (It should be noted that even with the tough first half, the Pelicans ability to hold the Warriors to five shots in the paint in the first quarter has to be considered a coup, and my initial reaction to Asik’s defense had to be reconsidered.)
  • The Pelicans shot chart in the first quarter looked exactly how Coach Monty Williams must be hoping for. New Orleans took 13 shots in the paint, and while they only made five of those, the fact that they got in the paint that much boded well for the team. The Pelicans also were able to create open looks elsewhere, with Eric Gordon getting hot from 3-point range, making three in the quarter, all in the same vicinity. The Pelicans only took seven midrange shots in the first quarter, not taking what the Warriors were giving them, but creating the kind of shots the team needs to.
  • Anderson struggled mightily in the 9 minutes he played, going 1-5 (missing both three pointers) for four points two rebounds and two assists. He was a sieve on defense, not hedging out on Steph Curry on a late first half three that helped the Warriors enter the half with the lead. Ajinca didn’t accrue a single stat besides a personal foul in his four minutes, and the Pels were outscored by 8 while he was in the game. The only post player that played well off the bench was Dante Cunningham, who provided energy and movement on both sides of the ball. Look for him to play more power forward in this series if Anderson, Asik, and Ajinca all continue to play inconsistent. You know it’s a code red when you get a text from a friend inquiring about Luke Babbitt. The Pels are going to need to see more from the frontcourt, so that coach Monty Williams can afford to give Davis more of a break. Davis clearly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.
  • Tyreke Evans- Evans filled the stat sheets a bit, but he seemed hampered by his injury and largely ineffective. Evans made four of his 13 shots, which included a hero ball three, and missed five free throws. When the Pels stall, he needs to be able to jumpstart the offense. It showed how important he is to this team, when New Orleans started to struggle in the second half, and Evans wasn’t able to give the team his usual boost.
  • Eric Gordon- Gordon played fantastic. He had 23 points making five of his 10 three pointers. Gordon made the Warriors pay when Curry was on him, or when the cross switches weren’t in tune. If Gordon plays like this in New Orleans, there is a good chance the Pels are going to come out with a win.
  • Anthony Davis- Davis is a monster. While he struggled late, and didn’t shoot particularly well (9-22), he did attack the basket well. Not settling for midrange jumpers but putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim. New Orleans may need even more from him to pull out a win, but Davis played a more complete game last night.
  • There were still too many sets where the ball stayed at the top and not enough movement was happening. The Pelicans’ off the ball cuts and screens, as well as spacing, has at times left a lot to be desired. While New Orleans’ late starting offense almost seemed purposefully done at times (the Pels took advantage of quite a bit of the switches today), one would like to see New Orleans get into their offense earlier and turn to the late-action triggers if that fails.
  • Davis gone, the Warriors come out to play- Davis’ only break in the game came at the start of the second quarter, where Davis would sit out for almost three minutes, the Pelicans leading 28-17. The Warriors scored on five of six possessions to start the quarter, and besides a couple of pull-up mid range jumpers by Norris Cole, the Pelicans didn’t score. Anderson took a 27 foot three pointer with 11 seconds left on the shot clock, he missed a bunny 8-footer, and Evans was blocked by Draymond Green on a haggard drive. The Pels called a timeout to put Davis back in for Ajinca with 9:04 left, with the lead having shrunk to 32-28.
  • Letting them stay in the game- The Pelicans played great out the gate, making a bunch of shots, but the half-court defense is what really stuck out. The Pels did a great job against the Warriors. The problem was, they gave up too many fastbreak points. Curry and Klay Thompson both found themselves open for threes throughout the game. It bought the Warriors time till they got into a rhythm in the half-court. The Warriors scored 13 of their 17 first quarter points on fastbreaks. Considering how well New Orleans was doing in the half-court (holding the Warriors to five field goals in the paint during the first quarter) the Pelicans didn’t take advantage of their strong execution out of the gate. The fact that the Pelicans turned the Warriors’ six turnovers into a mere four points was another way the Pelicans let the Warriors off the hook. New Orleans went into the first quarter with an 11-point lead, but that easily could have been higher.
  • Points in the paint- It was a topic of discussion after the first game of the series, but the Pelicans did a much better job of keeping the Warriors out of the paint. After they made a living in there in game 1, scoring 50 points in the paint, the New Orleans held Golden State to 34 points in game 2.
  • In the third quarter I got a text from a Bay Area friend lamenting the Pelicans making it into the playoffs. Saying they’d rather face a Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder. It gave me much joy knowing that even holding the lead, the fan base is annoyed with this Pelicans team (also noteworthy, none of my Oklahoma friends have texted my back since Wednesday.)
  • Hero Ball- At one point in the fourth quarter, I caught myself saying, “We’re not going to out hero ball the Warriors.” Those around me agreed. New Orleans took 30 foot jumpers with 14 seconds on the shot clock, Evans drove to the lane like an out of control car in an 80s action movie, Davis seemed to have no immediate plan of what to do with the ball. It’s young mistakes, from players who are not used to playing against a team that game plans this much against them. Everything is under a microscope in the playoffs. The Pels will look at the tape of this game and realize they left a lot of points on the board. They scored 35 points in the second half (making nine of their 35 shots.) That won’t get it done against the highest scoring offense in the league.
  • Lineups- The Starting Lineup of Evans/Gordon/Pondexter/Davis/Asik played 16 minutes together last night (the most out of any lineup) and mustered a -3. While they didn’t shoot the ball well, the lineup garnered seven steals and two blocks, holding the Warriors offense in check.
  • But a lineup that may need to be given a longer look, is the Cole/Cunningham/Pondexter/Davis/Evans lineup. With those five on the floor for six minutes, the Pelicans put up a +6. Cunningham at the four with a couple of perimeter players than can attack the paint and score or dish may be a lineup that needs more time together, especially if Ajinca and Anderson keep struggling.

14 responses to “Moleskin Moments (And the Morning After): Game 2”

  1. Nice write-up. Here’s my lone beef with Monty, who rightfully has been getting lots of good press for keeping Pels on task: Clearly before the team ran out of gas in the 4th qrtr, they were running out of gas – in other word, they were not going to win the game without some magical offense infusion, and, at least for me, it was unlikely to come from Cole or Gordon. Gordon actually played better in the 4th than I had expected based on seeing him disappear completely so many times when his legs give out. DC hustles but has super-limited O, and QPon has been struggling on O lately — in other words, the team was almost doomed to a low-scoring 4th. I would have benched Cole, who when he plays with Evans is more of a scorer, for Babbitt — akin to a MLB team bringing up a minor leaguer for the Sept pennant push. Look, we scored 16 pts in the 4th last night. I say run 10,000 simulations of that 4th, with those players (a lame Reke) and those mins (a gassed AD), and we are going to come up short way too many times. Now run those same simulations with Babbitt in place of a Cole, standing in the corner and possibly getting 2 3s (6 extra POINTS). Wish I had a simulator to check this out! Wish Monty had a bit more imagination, but Coach is what he is – someone who trust “his guys.” Unfortunately in the 4th qrtr last night we were at least one guy short.

  2. 6thMan Definitely saw the team being gassed, with Davis playing over 45 minutes and Evans playing 41 while injured. Gordon too. The problem I see is that Monty ran out of workable guys. With Holiday out, and RyNo being a no show (and for that matter, Ajinca too), he didn’t have anyone he could trust. 

    While Babbitt may warrant some time if Q-Pon keeps missing and RyNo remains a no-show, i don’t think throwing him in cruchtime would be ideal considering he hasn’t played in quite some time. Even if he is a James Jones type that hits a three the second he comes in no matter what the rust, who covers Curry in that lineup? (Assuming we’re talking Evans/Gordon/Babbitt/Davis/Asik.) Thompson feasted on Gordon, and he’d be the best perimeter defender if Babbitt is playing SF. Which is not to say it’s a bad idea, but GS is a pick your poison sort of team, they were the best team in the NBA during the regular season, and Monty opted to fight it out with his guys, which based on how they defended in the first quarter, could have allowed the team to pull out the win. 

    I do think Monty should keep an open mind to experimenting if the team continues to see some of it’s players struggle. Though I’d be surprised if Q-Pon, RyNo, Ajinca all keep struggling. In the end, I think Monty is going with the guys he trusts, the guys that give us the best chance to win, and the guys he believes will be with the Pels next year.

  3. xman20002000 Withey is someone I’d like to see get more time, though it looks like this won’t be the series for that, with Monty being quick to pull Asik and Ajinca so far. Withey is someone I’d like to see the team bring back next year, especially if one of Ajinca or Asik leaves. Good player who works hard. 

    Still holding out hope that Anderson, DC, Q-Pon will start shooting better at home.

  4. xman20002000 ChristopherRomaguera You guys notice how Kevin McHale played Clint Capela 16 mins in Game 1, 10 mins tonight — a player with only 90 mins of PT all year? Then I remembered how McHale rode Troy Daniels in last yr’s postseason — 17 mins pg, a player with 4 teams this year. So it really does seem that some coaches really can squeeze blood (or PT) from a turnip.

  5. 6thMan xman20002000 ChristopherRomaguera I don’t think it is a question of blood from a turnip. In Capela’s case, the Rockets invested a first round pick in him, and will most likely ride him out for the four years, or increase his value as an asset and flip him. Babbitt, on the last year of his deal, and having reached his ceiling relatively, doesn’t has that value for the Pels. Capela is also getting minutes he probably wouldn’t be getting due to D-Mo being injured as well. In the end, the Pelicans are playing and getting ready for a potential championship window, whereas the Rockets are in the middle of their championship window. The Pels gain more by playing the guys they trust and the guys that will be here next year, both in the short and long term. The Rockets have to do everything they can to max out this year. The Rockets would probably play Holiday this year, just like they played Beverly last year.

  6. xman20002000 ChristopherRomaguera Yea, I agree, I see Monty playing DC more PF minutes than Withey at the center. It seems like Monty wants mobile bigs in order to help shore up issues with the perimeter defense. I’m hoping this gets changed next year, but he has a lot of the guys hedge out too far for the roster we have. I’d hate to give up on Ajinca but I do think Withey is worth a shot, especially if Ajinca/Asik gets in foul trouble early one of these games, which is very possible.

  7. xman20002000 ChristopherRomaguera Neither RyNo or Ajinca played much last game. Cunningham played nearly as many minutes at the four as those two guys played combined. I think Monty is trying to max their pick and roll game with having mobile players being able to hedge out on the picks. Most of the post minutes went to Asik/DC/Davis, with whoever was playing the power forward hedging out while the center sank. RyNo got exposed as being super slow on the pick and roll in the first half, with that Curry three right at the half being a direct result of Ryno reacting slowly. I think Monty is weighing those moments heavily(whether too much is left to be determined) when deciding who to put out there.

  8. xman20002000 ChristopherRomaguera Just a BIG SHOUT-OUT to ChrisR for moderating such an informative series of responses — always being helpful and positive (no snarkiness), a welcome relief in blog commentary sections — plus it has helped me to realize that we just need a bit more O without losing any D — in other words, 2 games @ SKC! Go Pels!

  9. xman20002000 ChristopherRomaguera I think they are playing hard, but I think they are also being introduced to the playoffs, where the intensity and scouting is increased, so what is available in the regular season isn’t available now, as far as open shots and getting away with mistakes on defense. 

    RyNo has had a tough year following the back injury. His greatest use this year has come as being a trailer on fastbreaks and finding an open three in motion (think Peja). It is hard to do that against a team that can pretty much place a big wing on him, and therefore keep up with him in the open court. I’d like to see the team try him in the post with space if Iggy or Barnes is covering him, to maybe get an easy shot first, then work his way out. (He didn’t shoot well in the Apr. 7th win, but he had a couple of good moments in that game, making a couple of trailing 3s, and scoring out of a midrange post up on Iggy in crunch time.) 
    Q–Pon isn’t shooting well, but he isn’t taking bad shots either. Dreaded regression to the mean moment. But sometimes the friendliness of the home court is exactly what a player like Q-Pon needs. You want him to keep shooting. And the Pels need him, since he may be the best guy to defend Thompson.

    DC has struggled at the three, but I liked his energy at the four last game. As pointed out in the article, Cunningham at the four was one of the better lineups for the Pels, although for a small period of time, I’d like to see the team go to that lineup if for instance, the Ajinca experiment is going bad/over.

    Asik played well overall. Didn’t have a good second quarter, and that moment in the high post where no one was around him and he got nervous wasn’t his finest, but the Pels defense in the 1st quarter was fantastic. And he is a major part of that. Also had two steals, did a decent job on Bogut, and had 13 rebounds, which is great against a team that team rebounds as well as the Warriors. Asik sets the best picks on the team, and had some decent passes as well. If Asik is going to be playing solely with Davis, and Davis is going to be charged with attacking, the paint will be crowded, and Asik isn’t going to get a lot of points (he’ll score more with RyNo due to spacing, but Asik scoring isn’t really a priority.)

    Ajinca has never really been a shot blocker. Averaged under one a game, which is hard to hold against him when there are a few games where he played very small minutes. But despite his size, he has never been a defensive player. His Blk% isn’t great either, and while he keeps decent company in that stat, it’s with players who have done that playing more than twice as much as Ajinca. This matchup, which has attacking guards (Curry and Thompson), a savvy big man (Bogut) and a bruising backup who is going for putbacks (Speights) is not a good one for Ajinca. Which is why I think we are seeing Monty being quick to pull him out when he is being exposed.

    I’d also like to say that Reggie’s comment is a good example of why I watch the local broadcast. I’d be shocked if Reggie Miller has watched 5 Pelicans games this year before the playoffs. I’m pretty sure he looked at a stat sheet and saw Ajinca is 7’2, so he thought, “he must block shots”. That is not true, has not been true, and probably won’t be true this series. Ajinca has been a useful player this season, but never a shot blocker. Not to be a homer, but New Orleans has great broadcast guys, and they’ve watched the Pels every game this season, so they’ll give better analysis in my opinion.

  10. 6thMan xman20002000 ChristopherRomaguera Thanks I truly appreciate it. This is what I do. I love basketball and love talking about it. I’ll leave the snarkiness/sarcasm for when I’m at the bar. 

    Can’t wait for the SKC games, I think there is going to be a great energy there and this city is going to see some fantastic basketball.

  11. ChristopherRomaguera xman20002000 Re Ajinca’s D, it’s clearly limited but not horrible, unless for 1 reason or another (coach’s urging?) he tries to hedge more than 12′ from the basket): He is, after all, a huge. lumbering man, with a huge wingspan that definitely helps at the rim. He is also a sound D rebounder. His DRPM has not changed much from last yr: from 40th among Cs to 35th. Meanwhile Asik’s DRMP has plummeted, one assumes from injuries early in the season: from 4th D center last yr to 20th. Obviously DRPM should be rounded out with ORPM to give something like real value: Asik was the 11th ranked C last yr; 44th this yr; while Ajinca was 39th last yr and is 26th this yr (btw, between 2 Spurs, Diaw & Baynes). Since Asik’s low nos are likely based on injuries, I can readily see the argument for his added PT, but the opposite is also true, ie, if Asik is ineffective due to injuries or something else, than Ajinca has the game (and nos) to justify added mins as well, as long as one realizes that he has the O to make up for some lapses in D.

  12. 6thMan ChristopherRomaguera xman20002000 I don’t think Ajinca is an all around bad defender. Not a defensive player, but not a bad defender either. The problem with Ajinca is that his shortcomings will be easy to attack in this series, due to the high velocity pick and roll game with the Warriors, and having a rare combo of players in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, where the Pels can’t just have their bigs sink. Normally the Pels have the Center sink, but you can’t do that with Curry or Thompson (considering the former of the two may be the best off the bounce shooter in the league from distance.) It’s why I think we’ve seen so much of Davis at the Center, even if RyNo is not playing. 

    Personally I think Davis should be able to get breathers in both halves, so I like the idea of Ajinca getting some time at Center, since the Pels can run the offense through him a bit in the high post. This is especially useful when the Pels are struggling to score, which they did in the second half last game. The problem is that in starting lineups and similar lineups, Ajinca would be the fourth or fifth option, so his offense is less of an advantage (Ajinca’s best games came during massive team injuries, like Toronto, where the Pels just gave him the ball and cleared out.) Ajinca’s offensive game wouldn’t be a net negative, but unlike shooters or guys who grab offensive rebounds (think Tristan Thompson), Ajinca isn’t the kind of offensive player that effects the game without the ball. Which is why I’d advocate playing him when Davis is out this series, but not much more. 

    Asik vs. Ajinca isn’t as much of a question for me, cause Asik’s defense has been solid, not dominating, but solid. The dropoff I’d attribute to the team having having a different scheme, injuries, and starting every game he played. The Pels have given up the most points in the paint, but that is due to the Pels giving up the most shots in the paint, the scheme isn’t built to deter that.  Ajinca doesn’t defend or rebound as well, and I’d argue he’d struggle even more as a starter. The fact that the GS Warriors are a great foul shooting team also makes me apprehensive of playing him too much, due to his propensity to foul.

  13. Thanks for the break-down of the game, as I was unable to see it.  I agree with several of your comments, but none more than doing a 180 degree on anything Reggie Miller propounds.  I do think that the Pels, particularly AD, have the Warriors’ attention and with another good game from Eric Gordon, you may get yourself a win Game three.  Here’s to hoping.

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