Losing isn’t always frustrating. Some nights the game is just out of your hands, and the opponent just runs away with it. In those games, no matter what you do, it just simply won’t be good enough.
Last night was not like that at all for the Pelicans. In fact, it rarely ever is. The Pelicans losses are consistently frustrating because they always appear to be on the brink of figuring it out, only to change course right before they make the leap.
And that frustration continues to grow exponentially — and unfortunately it would seem, with no end in sight.
Last night’s 110-97 loss to the San Antonio Spurs (41-8) dropped the Pelicans to 18-30 on the season, and five games out of the Western Conference playoffs.
The start of the game was promising. The Pels were up 25-22 with just over a minute to go in the first quarter, having played very well on both sides of the ball to that point.
A mere 70 seconds later, they trailed 30-27 heading into the second thanks to two wide open Danny Green three pointers and a David West lay-in just before the buzzer. Momentum did not return to the Pelicans for quite some time.
Toney Douglas had a chance to nip that Spurs run before it got too bad after stealing a Manu Ginobili pass. But he botched the layup and Green took advantage of his transition opportunity and drained the three.
Feb 3, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) puts up a shot over San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12, left) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The Pelicans outscored the Spurs 10-8 in fast break points, but that margin could have and should have been much greater. The Douglas miss would be the first of many failed fast break chances for the team.
The Spurs offense is a well oiled machine, and forcing turnovers is not an easy task. At least five times tonight, the Pels had a chance for easy points and they blew it, whether it be via a missed shot or a turnover.
Those chances need to be cashed in consistently to have a chance against the NBA’s best, or at the very least once or twice.
The Spurs are masters of taking advantage of their opponent’s mistakes. It’s a quality great teams have. And the Pelicans are simply not there yet.
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Anthony Davis played very well on the offensive end for the entire night. He racked up 28 points and 4 assists on 50% shooting. It was assuring to see him to work his way to the basket rather than settling for too many jump shots.
He still does not respond particularly well to double teams, which the Spurs were able to take advantage of a few times tonight, but that is a skill that will hopefully continue to progress over time.
Davis stands out from most of the NBA in a lot of different areas, but tonight he was welcomed into a not-so-exclusive big man club: guys LaMarcus Aldridge has made look bad on defense.
Aldridge utilized an array of ball fakes, post moves, and everything else you could possibly think of to shimmy and shoot his way to a game-high 36 points. He knocked down 12-12 free throws and 12-20 shots from the field. Not too shabby.
Feb 3, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) dunks the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
With Tim Duncan out of the lineup, Aldridge shouldered the load as the lone big man on the court. Tim Duncan might never retire, but if he does, nights like tonight should give Spurs fans the reassurance that they won’t have too much to worry about.
It also helps that Kawhi Leonard, one of the elite talents in the NBA, is always playing at an equal or greater level. His versatility and awareness on both sides of the ball is breathtaking, and he not only knows what to do, he gets it done.
He can be a knockdown shooter, he can put passes on a silver platter, and he can wreak havoc around the rim. He showcased it all against the Pelicans tonight, and while it is not always flashy, it sure is clean.
Jrue Holiday rebounded from his abysmal 1-14 shooting night against the Grizzlies with a much better outing. He scored 20 points and tallied 5 dimes in 30 minutes off the bench.
He started 8-10 from the field, which was encouraging, but missing his final 8 shots really hurt the Pelicans in the fourth quarter, where the Pelicans went from down by 1 to down by 13. Nevertheless, he was in a much better rhythm last night, something that the Pelicans need to continue if they wish to get back to winning.
The Pelicans take on the Los Angeles Lakers, who defeated them the last time they matched up, coming up tonight at 8:30 CST on TNT….