Moleskin Moments (And the Morning After): Game 2

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Published: April 21, 2015

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.

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